The Los Angeles Kings’ 2020-21 season is done and dusted. It was another tough year for the Kings, as they ended with a 21-28-7 record — while it was a down season, it wasn’t an unexpected result. The team is still in a rebuilding phase and wasn’t expected to make the playoffs at the start of the season. With the season over, it’s time to reflect on how the team and players performed. With that in mind, I’ll be kicking off a player grades series for the Kings. As a favorite of his teammates, I figured Alex Iafallo would be the perfect player to start this series with.
Iafallo’s Season Statistics
- 13 goals, 17 assists, 30 points, plus-4 in 55 games played, average time on ice (ATOI) of 19:53
- 51.2 % Corsi for percentage (CF%) at even strength, 39 blocked shots, 26 hits, 15 takeaways, nine giveaways, four penalty minutes
Iafallo had exactly the kind of season you would expect from him. He put up a respectable .55 points per game (P/G) and worked his tail off every time he touched the ice. His solid play earned him a nice four-year, $16 million contract extension just before the trade deadline. He sat fourth on the team for both points and ATOI. He was relied upon in all situations, playing most of the season on the top line, top power-play unit, and as a top penalty killer.
He did what he has done since breaking into the league in 2017 – the “dirty work” for Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Almost always the first player in on the forecheck and excellent at recovering the puck in the corners, he makes life easier on his linemates. He also proved that he’s more than just a product of Kopitar and Brown towards the end of the season. In the last month of the year, head coach Todd McLellan decided to shake the lines up a little bit and move Iafallo off the top line. Instead, he was paired with Gabe Vilardi and Lias Andersson for six games.
During these six games, both Vilardi and Andersson saw an increase in production after adding Iafallo to their wing — Vilardi tallied five points and Andersson grabbed three in the six games. While this is a small sample size, it reinforces the idea that Iafallo makes whoever he plays with better. With the success they found down the stretch it would make sense for the Kings to keep that line together. If that line can keep up close to the level of production we saw in their six games, LA would add some much-needed depth scoring to their lineup.
Stepping Into a Leadership Role
An area where Iafallo made a big jump this season was in his leadership. With Brown’s season ending early due to injury, the Kings needed to appoint someone as an interim alternate captain for their last five games. When the puck dropped on May 5 against the Colorado Avalanche, Iafallo wore the “A” in place of Brown. Wearing the “A” on his jersey was something he considered “an honor” and it is nothing less than he deserves for his play over the last four years. Taking on a new leadership role is also something he identified in his recent exit interviews. In an interview, he was asked about his season and the development of the secondary core of the team:
“We’ve been with each other for a few years now and talked a lot in the summer about how we want to go forward helped us try to take leadership and ownership of this group. Communication was huge and it really helped us this year.”(From “Hear from Six LA Kings Players During Exit Interviews,” LA Kings, NHL.com)
This added leadership role makes the recent deal he signed with the team look even better, as the Kings locked up a solid piece both on and off the ice for the foreseeable future. With Brown likely still on the roster next season, Iafallo will probably have to wait a little while longer before wearing the “A” full-time. Still, he made big strides in his leadership and it won’t be long before he has a permanent letter on his jersey. With more youth coming into the lineup next season, it will be even more important that players like Iafallo step up as leaders. His work ethic and desire to win should be the model for every Kings’ prospect.
Iafallo’s Overall Grade: B
Iafallo epitomizes a “B” player in my opinion. He’s always going to give you a solid performance but will very rarely leave you in awe. He’s consistently good, nothing more and nothing less. Fortunately, teams need players like this in order to win. I imagine he will be with the Kings at least through his new four-year deal and hopefully long past that as well.
With another season of solid point production, hard work, and an added leadership presence, there’s virtually nothing more the Kings could ask of Alex Iafallo. Whether he’s back on the first line or moved around the lineup next season, I imagine his grade will look very similar a year from now. That’s the kind of player he is – he’s consistent, and his positive impact both on and off the ice should not be undervalued.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.