Last summer, Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake made a series of moves intended to take the team from rebuilding bottom-feeders to playoff hopefuls. The first of those moves was trading a 2021 second-round pick and a 2022 third-round pick to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Viktor Arvidsson. The initial plan was for Arvidsson to come in and be the goal-scoring winger Anze Kopitar has been missing for the last few seasons. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but Arvidsson has still found success with the team and is now one of their best offensive weapons.
Arvidsson on the First Line
At the beginning of this season, Arvidsson played with Kopitar on the first line, with Dustin Brown and Adrian Kempe rotating out as his wing partners. The initial line of Arvidsson-Kopitar-Brown was okay — it posted solid possession numbers and marginally outscored opponents. Conceptually, the line made sense; Brown would provide physicality and puck retrieval, Arvidsson could provide speed and finishing, while Kopitar was the dominant, two-way playmaker he’s always been. Unfortunately, Arvidsson struggled to finish, couldn’t find chemistry with Kopitar, and Brown was clearly not a first-line player anymore. The line wasn’t a liability by any means, but they were not good enough for a first line.
The team didn’t give up on Arvidsson on the top line right away, though. They swapped Brown out for Kempe, hoping the two Swedes could find chemistry and jump-start the line. It was successful in that it improved the line’s possession numbers, but the line struggled to score, and couldn’t keep pucks out of their own net. The line would only score once and would concede five before coach Todd McLellan decided to shake things up.
Hindsight being 20/20, Kempe and Arvidsson were always a poor fit as wing partners. Both players look to generate offense in a similar fashion, using their speed to back defenders off while producing a very high shot volume. The line’s combination of size, speed, and skill allowed them to dominate possession numbers and even produce better chances than their opponents, but they were ultimately one-dimensional and couldn’t consistently produce real offense.
Arvidsson on the Second Line
A great safety net for players who are struggling on the Kings this season has been putting them with Phillip Danault, as the second-line center has seemingly improved every winger who has been placed with him. Arvidsson has been no different, finding success with both Alex Iafallo and Trevor Moore playing opposite of him. The Moore-Danault-Arvidsson line has been particularly impressive, with one of the best goal percentages in the NHL, outscoring opponents 12-2. They’ve also been dominant in possession, controlling over 60 percent of both shot attempts and shots on net. The newly crowned “Nice Line” was pivotal in a great month of January where the team went 8-4-2, and Arvidsson is a key member of their success.
A very hard worker, much like Danault and Moore, Arvidsson injects a dose of skill and speed into the line. A good presence on the forecheck, a high-volume shooter, and one of the league’s best at creating off the rush, he complements his two linemates perfectly. Danault is a play driver who dominates in the corners and along the wall, while Moore is a Swiss Army knife who can perform any role asked of him.
It’s on the rush where Arvidsson does the most damage — according to AllThreeZones.com, only Johnny Gaudreau has generated more offense off the rush than Arvidsson this season. According to the same website, he’s also generating the most shots per 60 minutes, with a staggering 22.81 shots per 60. His finishing let him down massively at the beginning of the season, scoring just twice in his first 10 games, and just six times in his first 25 games. He’s starting to find his scoring touch, though, with seven goals in his last 14 games; we’re beginning to see shades of the two-time 30-goal scorer he once was.
While it’s very unlikely he’s able to break the 30-goal mark again this season, especially considering he’s missed seven games already, I do expect him to continue this upward trajectory. His play earlier in the season deserved more goals and he’s now being rewarded for solid play. It will be interesting to see how long the Moore-Danault-Arvidsson line can keep up this level of dominance, but I think regardless of what happens with that line we can expect this version of Arvidsson to stay, if not improve.
A Smart Acquisition
The NHL expansion draft last summer created a unique opportunity for Blake to go out and grab a player for much cheaper than they should have been, and he capitalized. Under normal circumstances, a player with Arvidsson’s pedigree and underlying numbers, which showed a bounce-back was inevitable, would never have been traded for so little. He’s already surpassed his point total from last season and is only getting better as the season progresses. This was always a perfect low-risk, high-reward move for the Kings, and they’re very close to cashing in on the high-reward portion of the deal.