For the 29th place Los Angeles Kings, last season was one to forget. The team lacked scoring and lost an absurd amount of road games. No matter how bad of a season it was, there were a few players that showed signs of hope. These should be the guys to watch in the 2020-21 season, as they can continue to uptrend. Although this list can change between now and the start of the season due to the draft, free agency, and trades, here are five current Kings players to watch in the 2020-21 season.
5: Alex Iafallo
Iafallo has always played a solid role for the Kings. He filled the first-line, left-wing role this past season, playing with Anze Kopitar. Iafallo also played on the first power play unit last season. He is not a super young guy, as he is 26 years old, but he has been on a consistent uptrend over the last few seasons.
In the 2017-18 season, Iafallo’s first season, he put up a points-per-game (P/GP) rate of 0.33. In the 2018-19 season, his P/GP increased to 0.40. Last season, he made another jump, a P/GP of 0.61. If he can continue this pattern, he will be a machine for the Kings next season. He also had an impressive shooting percentage of 12 percent.
One thing that is worrisome is Iafallo’s inconsistent plus/minus. In 2017-18, he had a solid plus-10. He had a poor 2018-19 season with a minus-17. He didn’t do anything great last season, either — a plus-1. One thing to take into account with Iafallo is his linemates. Playing with Kopitar and Dustin Brown is likely beneficial to Iafallo’s point totals. If lines get moved around, he will have to adapt to likely being the leader of his trio. He is also an unrestricted free agent in 2021-22, so he will have to prove how much he is worth this season. Iafallo will likely come to play this season since he can put up big points, and because he knows a big season means big money.
4: Austin Wagner
Wagner is a young winger for the Kings who just signed a three-year, $1.33 million average annual value (AAV), contract. He had a disappointing season in 2019-20, putting up just 11 points in 65 games. This was a decrease from his rookie season of 21 points in 62 games. He also saw a decrease in his shooting percentage. Wagner dropped from an unsustainable, 17.91 percent, down to an atrocious 4.8 percent.
Because the Kings don’t have many solid wingers, Wagner could be looking at a bigger role in 2020-21 in what could be his bounce-back season. He should also be looking to prove he is worth the money he just signed for.
3: Matt Roy
In Roy’s first full season in the NHL, he put up an impressive 18 points in 70 games. He also put up a plus-16 on the season. This is quite good considering how bad the Kings were as a team. Because the team doesn’t have much on defense aside from Drew Doughty and Ben Hutton, a larger role could be awaiting Roy in the 2020-21 season. He is also tremendously underpaid for one more season at $700,000. Roy will be motivated to have an even better season considering he can get a big pay raise if he plays well.
2: Blake Lizotte
As the second-line center, Lizotte was one of the best Kings last season. He is a small, undrafted player who was still able to put up 23 points in 65 games in his first full season. As of right now, he is playing behind Kopitar, so it should be interesting to see what happens with them next season in terms of Lizotte getting closer to possibly taking over the number one center position.
Lizotte also played a special teams role, getting on the second power play unit. He only has one more year left on contract at an outstanding $925,000. Because he only has played one full season in the NHL, it is hard to know where he will go next season. Although he could take a step back or stay the same, chances are he takes a step forward in a big way.
1: Calvin Petersen
After Jack Campbell was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the two main goalies for the Kings became Jonathan Quick and Calvin Petersen. Quick is getting up there in age, so Petersen will have his chance over the next couple of seasons to prove he is the long-term solution in net for the team. Petersen had solid numbers last season, putting a .922 save percentage and a 2.64 goals against average to his name. He is also only getting paid $858,333 until 2022-23.
One issue for Petersen is that he has never played a significant number of games. Over his entire NHL career, he has only played 19 games, 8 of which came last season. This coming season, Petersen will play more than he ever has in his career. He can either prove he will be number one after Quick leaves or he can start the search for the next Kings goaltender.
These Players Will Determine When the Next Kings Playoff Run Will Be
Players like Kopitar, Doughty, and Quick, are considered the core of the Kings right now, but they won’t be around forever. Rather, it will be the players on this list that will determine where the Kings will fall in the standings over the next couple of seasons.
The next generation of Kings is coming, with 11 picks in this year’s draft and many prospects in the system. All of these up-and-comers along with players like the ones on this list will make up the next Stanley Cup contender team for Los Angeles.