Welcome to Puck Drop Preview 2016-17, where LastWordOnHockey.com gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of this hockey season and offers our insight and analysis. Make sure to stick around until the end of the series, where we’ll offer our full predictions for the standings in each division, and eventually our 2016-17 Stanley Cup pick. You can check out all our articles on our Puck Drop Page. Today the series continues with the Los Angeles Kings.
The Los Angeles Kings enter the 2016-17 season with big expectations. After finishing last season with a 48-28-6 record, good for second in the Pacific Division, they had a quick first-round exit in the playoffs in a series against their division foe the San Jose Sharks. The Kings organization made some key free agent signings in the off-season and look to get back to the top of the hockey world.
Puck Drop Preview: 2016-17 Los Angeles Kings
The Kings finished the 2015-16 season with an impressive 48-28-6 record, good for 2nd place in the Pacific division. Although they were destined for a playoff berth, an eight-game losing skid in March saw the Anaheim Ducks overtake them as division champs. They had two five-game winning streaks throughout the season, but outside of those streaks were rarely able to string together a long stretch of wins. They managed a mere nine wins between February and March and had to rely heavily on a strong start to reach the playoffs. The Kings also only had six overtime loses last season. Finding a way to put the puck in the net in overtime and grabbing that extra point is key, and Los Angeles certainly did that.
The Los Angeles Kings are a team that is built for post-season play. They brought in a couple reliable veteran forwards to join an already potent scoring attack. Teddy Purcell spent the 2015-16 campaign split between the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers. He tallied 14 goals and 29 assists for 43 points. He will add scoring depth and will likely be their second line left winger.
Michael Latta also signed as a free agent and spent last season with the Washington Capitals. Although not a scoring threat he is still young at only 24 years old and is coming from an organization with a winning mentality, which can be easily overlooked. On the blue line, the Kings signed defencemen Tom Gilbert and Zach Trotman, who will look to crack the roster. They also picked up goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, who will likely take over as the backup to Jonathan Quick.
In terms of notable losses, the Kings saw winger Milan Lucic sign with Edmonton. They also saw back-up goaltender Jhonas Enroth sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs; defencemen Jamie McBain and Luke Schenn signed with the Arizona Coyotes; defender Jeff Schultz went to Anaheim; winger Kris Versteeg is on a PTO with Edmonton; and centre Vincent Lecavalier retired.
While the Kings core was build via the draft, they have not had many picks in recent years. Due to trades, they have only made two first round picks over the last five drafts. The 2016 draft saw them take defenceman Kale Clague in the second round 51st overall. They did not have a first or third round pick and did not select again until the fourth round, taking another blue liner, Jacob Moverare, 112th overall. Their top pick in the 2015 draft was Erik Cernak who they took in the second round 43rd overall. He is likely still a work in progress. Left winger Adrian Kempe was their most recent first round pick, back in 2014 at 29th overall. He will fight for a spot in camp, but looks to be heading for another year in the minors.
Teddy Purcell -Anze Kopitar – Marian Gaborik
Tanner Pearson – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Dwight King – Nick Shore – – Dustin Brown
Kyle Clifford – Michael Latta – Trevor Lewis
Andy Andreoff – Jordan Nolan
The Kings have a forward group that has depth and the combination of veteran talent an young upstarts that contenders have. Jeff Carter had a great campaign last year with 62 points and will look to crack the 600 point plateau this season as he currently sits on 584. Anze Kopitar has been a point-per-game player for the majority of his career and another 70, or more, point season is not out of the question. In 764 career games he has amassed 684 points.
Tyler Toffoli, established himself as one of the leagues’ top young stars in 2015-16. His 31 goals lead the Kings and he finished the season with 58 points and a highly impressive +35 rating. He should get big minutes for the Kings.
Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown are the only other two pure right wings currently listed on the Kings roster. With them nearing the end of their playing days, the kings may be looking for help at right wing soon. Gaborik contributed 22 points last season. If he remains healthy throughout 2016-17 he could join the exclusive 1000 games played club, as he is currently sitting on 933. Brown had a disappointing campaign last year with just 29 points. He has never been known as an elite point producer having tallied 470 in 884 games.
There are five players listed at the left wing position, but as mentioned earlier, one could move to the right side like the numerous centermen. Tanner Pearson, the Kings first round pick back in 2012 played well in 2015-16 with 36 points and will look to reach 40 points or more in his second full season in the NHL. The Kings added more scoring power to their lineup when they signed free agent Teddy Purcell in the off-season. He began his career with the Kings and looks to bring his 43 point campaign last season back to Los Angeles in 2016-17. Andy Andreoff, Kyle Clifford, and Dwight King round out the left wing spot and will play key roles on the third or fourth line.
Brayden McNabb – Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin – Alec Martinez
Derek Forbort – Tom Gilbert
Rob Scuderi, Zach Trotman
Lead by Drew Doughty, the Kings defence is young but highly talented and will make it difficult for the opposition to have multiple scoring chances night in and out. Doughty has become one of the leagues’ premiere defencemen his 51 point campaign last season was the second-highest of his career.
Jake Muzzin has also become a fantastic ‘number two’ on the blue line for the Kings. He has back-to-back 40 point seasons and will look to make it three in a row this year. The Kings may split him and Doughty at even strength to create balance in their pairings Alec Martinez is another point-producing defender with 31 last season. New additions Gilbert and Trotman join Brayden McNabb and Derek Forbort on the blue line. Kevin Gravel could push for a spot, but may find himself waiting in Ontario for a callup. Rob Scuderi’s spot on the blue line is in jeopardy. He could find himself in the press box or even in the AHL.
Jonathan Quick – Jeff Zatkoff
Jonathan Quick is one of the NHL’s top goalies. His 2.22 goals against average and .918 save percentage last season brought him to a 40-23-5 record. A lofty goal, but one that may be sitting in the back of his mind in 2016-17 is 300 career wins. He currently has 252 and although a 48 win season will be difficult to reach, he has the talent around him to get there. Jeff Zatkoff and Peter Budaj will fight for the backup job, but unless Quick gets injured or struggles severely they will likely play no more than twenty games this season.
Players to Watch
He only recently turned 24 and has only played in 230 career games. His 31 goal, 27 assist campaign last year firmly established him as one of the leagues’ top young stars. He should find himself on the wing of Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter. Toffoli has emerged as a true first line player.
Playing on a blue line behind a duo like Doughty and Muzzin can have a 31 point season fly under the radar. That is exactly what Martinez did in 2015-16 and he will look to build on that again this season.
Players on the Rise
The former first round pick has arrived. He registered 36 points last season and will look to contribute even more in his second full season with the club. He is certainly capable of playing on the top line. If paired with a veteran center, Pearson could have a 50 point season. Re-uniting the line with Pearson, Carter and Toffoli would be a real boost to his production.
He is now entering his fourth full season with the Kings and has established himself as the number two, or 1B, defenceman behind Doughty. He has back-to-back 40 point campaigns and adds an offensive threat when he steps on the ice. His Team Canada invitation for the World Cup may have come as a surprise to some fans, but not to Kings fans. He has emerged as a leader for the Kings both on and off the ice and will continue to be the pride of Woodstock, Ontario in 2016-17.
Players on the Decline
He will turn 38 this December and spent the 2015-16 season between three different clubs. He is a good veteran presence for young defenceman like Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel to learn from, but his playing days are certainly limited and it would not be shocking for 2016-17 to be his final season.
He has played to most games of any member on the Kings roster at 933. His 47 point campaign in the 2014-15 season was somewhat of a resurgence. However, the 22 points he put up last year has become what we should expect. He will turn 35 in February and has had a hall of fame worthy career. He is nearing the 400 goal and 400 assist mark, with 386 and 387 respectively. If he manages to have another 20 point season the Kings would be more than happy. Gaborik and Brown will likely be fighting for a top six right wing spot. If he is paired with Kopitar, he could surprise people and put his name on the score sheet frequently.
The Kings have a promising end to their schedule with six of their final seven games taking place at home. They also get a chance at redemption against their division foe, San Jose Sharks, early. They face them at home on October 12th. The Los Angeles Kings are primed for another 100 point season and have numerous players on the cusp of career milestones. With veterans Carter and Kopitar and youngsters Pearson and Toffoli, the offence will have no problem finding the score sheet. If Doughty, Muzzin, and company do their job to keep their opponents off it, a 50 win season is on the horizon in Los Angeles.