Kings Training Camp Early Takeaways: Prospects, Trades & Vision for 2020-21

Legendary Los Angeles Kings player and current general manager Rob Blake recently conducted a 2020-21 training camp press conference. In the Dec. 30, 2020 press conference, he revealed news on the team’s vision, prospects and potential trades for the 2020-21 NHL season.

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This article will highlight key points from his 30-minute press conference and will contain time stamps, so you can go back to this video and see what Blake says. With that said, here’s a look at the early takeaways from Kings’ training camp.

Trade Plan

Blake was asked if the team was willing to make deals with teams over the salary cap (similar to what Pierre Dorion has done) to utilize some of the team’s cap space to take home multiple assets (at about 7:50 in the press conference). The Kings general manager responded by saying “yes” and that the team has already looked into it, but that it would have to make sense.

Pierre Dorion Ottawa Senators
Pierre Dorion, Ottawa Senators, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Pierre Dorion deal that was mentioned refers to his trade with the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning. In the deal, the Ottawa Senators received Braydon Coburn, Cedric Paquette and a 2022 second-round pick for Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsson.

Cedric Paquette Tampa Bay Lightning
Cedric Paquette, former Tampa Bay Lightning (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This deal made sense for both teams. Neither Gaborik nor Nilsson will play in 2020-21, allowing Tampa to put them on the long term injured reserve (LTIR), saving money. Ottawa acquired a good pick, a veteran defenceman in Coburn who helps round out the blue line, and Paquette who is a great penalty killer and a physical presence.

Playoffs Expected

At 20:39 into the video, Blake is asked if he thinks the Kings are a playoff team. His answer was “as far as playoffs, yeah, that’s what we expected to do.” Furthermore, he added “it is a result-oriented business, and to get these results, results are wins. You want to keep building on that; you need the foundation in place and then you need the process that the players trust and buy into.” Finally, he said “I think we developed that last year. Now we need to take that another step forward. But that is results, and you need wins to get that result.”

Rob Blake
Rob Blake – Los Angeles Kings (Getty Images)

This should be welcome news for Kings fans as the last time LA made the playoffs was in 2018. The veteran players on the team, such as Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, have had playoff success, but building a foundation that youngsters such as Calder Trophy contender Gabriel Vilardi trust and buy into will be important for the Kings who have the best prospect pipeline in the NHL.

Entry-Level Contract Plans

Immediately following the playoffs question and answer, the next important question was asked. At 21:40 into the video, Blake is asked is asked if the Kings would try not to burn off a year from top prospects’ entry level contracts (ELC), such as Alex Turcotte, Quinton Byfield and Arthur Kaliyev. Specifically, it asks about keeping them under the seven-game limit.

Alex Turcotte of the U.S. National Development Program
Alex Turcotte of the U.S. National Development Program (Rena Laverty/USHL)

Blake responds in the affirmative, saying as follows:

“Yeah, you’re right {about} the seven-game limit. Because of the prorated and the amount of games… We want to make sure that when the players come — and listen, we are talking about really young players — they have to be 100% ready to step in and help your team win, right? So, the process before that leading up to that, it all comes into play and we’ll take it as we go. Will we get a look at some of these guys early. We hope so. We have got situations where we can carry them. We may get a game here and there, but again they have to be 100% ready and we have to be confident that by playing the whole year it’s going to help them develop.”

Rob Blake
Quinton Byfield Sudbury Wolves
Quinton Byfield of the Sudbury Wolves (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

This is a strong indication that rookies such as Turcotte, Byfield, Kaliyev and any other Kings prospects who didn’t get NHL playing time last year won’t be playing much in the NHL this season. Despite this, the Kings’ lineup will have a few new faces as rookies, including Vilardi, defenceman Kyle Clague, and Tobias Björnfot, who was a sleeper player in the 2021 World Junior Championship who met expectations, will likely gain roster spots as all three already gained NHL experience last season.

Veterans Talked to About Having a More Competitive Team

Another key moment from the press conference came approximately at the 24:43-minute mark.

“You don’t see that uncertainty as much at the {trade} deadline. We are going to start putting in some of these players, the competitiveness to try to earn spots in here, but like I said, the result-oriented business, trying to get the wins, pushing this team to get better and better, that’s been communicated with the five veterans for a number of months throughout this, but I do think there’s a little more certainty for this team going forward when we approach deadlines.”

Rob Blake

The five veterans Blake mentioned are almost certainly Emmy Award winning captain Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter and Jonathan Quick. This statement by Blake indicates these veterans know that they are meant to push this team to get better and they will be a big part in the Kings’ playoff push.

Doughty is driven and determined to have a bounce-back season and Kopitar has said, “it’s realistic to think about playoffs.” Having the veterans in win-now mode should definitely be a shot in the arm for the Kings’ rookies and it should help the team be more successful next season.

The Big Takeaways

The takeaways from Blake’s press conference are that the Kings are willing to use cap space to acquire assets, playoffs are expected and this has been communicated to veterans, and that the team doesn’t plan to burn a year off of players such as Kaliyev, Byfield and Turcotte’s ELCs. This should definitely be an exciting season for Kings fans if all goes according to plan, as the team is clearly looking for results.

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