30 in 15: Los Angeles Kings Season Preview

I doubt the Kings figured they would finish with more than 100 points and still take 3rd place in the stacked Pacific Division, but that’s what happened last season, as the Kings rode a red hot offense to start the season, reaching a very respectable 20-10-3 record by mid-December. Unfortunately, a matchup with the Vancouver Canucks proved to be too much for the Kings, as they gave up 17 goals over the last three games of the series. This season, despite not adding Ilya Kovalchuk as everyone assumed they would, the Kings will again be expected to make the playoffs, and hopefully make a better run.

*Offense:’ Anze Kopitar is the star of the show in LA, and deservedly so, after he roared out of the gate with ten goals in the first month of the season. Playing with Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams certainly seemed to help Kopitar, as his point totals dipped noticeably when either player was injured. Captain Dustin Brown will be joined by newcomer Alexei Ponikarovsky on the 2nd line, since Alex Frolov signed with New York. Wayne Simmonds will probably take on a larger role, and his 40 points and 116 penalty minutes made him a fantasy sleeper last season. The powerplay should be just as lethal as it was in the playoffs, when the Kings scored 10 goals with the man advantage in just 6 games against a usually solid Vancouver PK unit.Grade: B+anze kopitarDefense:Drew Doughty has quickly become one of the faces of this franchise, and with good reason. Fresh off an impressive performance with gold medal-winning Team Canada, Doughty was tied for the team lead with 7 points in the playoffs. Jack Johnson, the Kings’ other blue chip defenseman, also scored 7 points, but Johnson will have to improve on the -15 rating he recorded last season. Doughty looks like he could be poised to become one of the top defenders in the league for quite some time (playing top pairing for Team Canada is saying something), and with his point scoring ability, he can be a real game-changer. Veteran Willie Mitchell was brought in this summer, which should help spread the defensive load around a bit better and add some stability to what is clearly a talented, but still young defensive corps.Grade: A-’'’Goaltending:’’’ While Jonathan Quick is the starter at the moment, there’s no guarantee that’s who will be between the pipes by the end of the year in LA. Quick was very good for most of the regular season, winning 39 games and posting a 2.54 GAA. He looked shaky in the playoffs, though, and there’s been plenty of talk that he’ll lose his job to promising youngster Jonathan Bernier, who won all 3 games he played last year, allowing just 4 goals and posting a 1.30 GAA, .957 save percentage along with a shutout. Either way the Kings have two very viable options in net. They might not be Roberto Luongo or Martin Brodeur, but they should be more than good enough to support this club.Grade: B+’'’Key Additions:’’’ Alexei Ponikarovsky, Willie Mitchell*Key Losses:’ Alexander Frolov

Len robinson
Sports Pundit member

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