With 2021 coming to a close, several people will be looking at 2022 as a fresh start and NHL players are no different. The Los Angeles Kings have a few players that need the chance to hit the reset button and start anew in 2022. Here are three Kings players who will be looking to bounce back in 2022.
I don’t think there’s anyone on the Kings who needs a bounce-back quite like Cal Petersen. Heading into this season, it appeared that this would be the year he was given the starting position over Jonathan Quick. Petersen was given the opening night start against the Vegas Golden Knights, the first time someone other than Quick has opened up the season since the 2008-09 season and was given a three-year, $15 million contract extension before the season. This season was supposed to be his coming-out party, where everyone recognized him as a true starter in the NHL, unfortunately, it has been everything but so far.
At the time of writing, Petersen currently has a 3.10 goals-against average (GAA), a .893 save percentage (SV%), and has lost the starting job to Quick. His underlying numbers aren’t much better either, with 1.8 saves below expected, and .164 saves below expected per 60 minutes. With Quick posting some of the best numbers in the league, it seems impossible that Petersen reclaims the starting job, but he can still make big improvements in 2022. He looks like a goalie who has zero confidence right now and doesn’t look comfortable in his net.
Fortunately, he’s just 27 years old, fairly young for a goalie, and has plenty of time to rediscover his game. This bad stretch to start the season doesn’t put the nail in the coffin for Petersen as a future starting goalie, but he does need to improve quickly. The Kings will have almost $11 million tied up in their goalies next season, so they can’t afford to have one underperform. If he doesn’t improve soon, the organization might look into acquiring a high-potential goalie this offseason.
Watching Dustin Brown this season makes it hard to believe that he was the team’s leading goal scorer last season, finishing with 17 goals in just 49 games. A fall-off this season shouldn’t have been too surprising, as he grabbed most of his goals last season in the first half and on the power play. However, I did not anticipate his decline to be this steep. He is currently on pace for just 32 points and 11 goals, which would see him score fewer goals than he did during the shortened 2020-21 season.
It’s not just the drop-off in production that is concerning either, he looks like a shell of his former self. He simply can’t keep up on the top line anymore, and at times looks like a detriment to his linemates. He’s currently on the COVID protocol list, so he’ll be given a short layoff from the ice, possibly giving him time to reset and come back ready to play, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. If he doesn’t improve upon his return, he shouldn’t be on the top line much longer and there needs to be serious questions about bringing him back next season. He will soon take on the role of the fourth-line locker room presence we see so many veterans take on if he can’t bounce back in 2022.
Trevor Moore was the feel-good story of the 2020-21 season. A fringe roster player heading into last season, he played himself into an expansion projected player by the end. He finished with 23 points and even earned himself a spot in the top six by the end of the season. It has been a different story so far this season, though, with his offense almost entirely drying up. At the time of writing, he has just seven points through 31 games, putting him on pace to score just 18 points this season, less than he had in the shortened 2020-21 season. His 200-foot play is still solid, but his lack of offense is concerning. It is worth noting that coach Todd McLellan is seemingly still happy with his play, though, rewarding him with a spot on the second line in the team’s return to play against the Golden Knights on Monday.
There are some signs that he might bounce back in 2022 as well — his offense has picked up recently, with five points in his last 10 games. He doesn’t need to be an offensive superstar for the Kings, but he does need to improve. With the logjam of forward prospects the team has, very few players’ positions are safe and someone like Moore could see themselves on the outside looking in if he doesn’t improve heading into the New Year.
More Improvements Must be Made
These aren’t the only three players that need to improve heading into the New Year, as the team overall needs to improve. The goal to start the season was making the playoffs, and this team has not been good enough to achieve that. Bounce backs from these three players would certainly help, but there needs to be more from the whole team, and likely from the management group. This current group isn’t getting the job done, so a few trades might be on management’s New Year’s resolution list.
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.