The 2021-22 season will be an incredibly exciting one for the Los Angeles Kings and their fans. Last season, LA finished with a record of 21-28-7, totaling 49 points. Even though they ended the campaign in the sixth spot in the Honda West Division, they were in the playoff race for the vast majority of the season.
This season, the Kings are going to be a very interesting team to watch; they have a mix of several veteran players that helped lead the team to two Stanley Cups in the early 2010s and young, emerging stars from their arguably league-best prospect system. Some project that they could take the fourth playoff spot in the Pacific Division, while others see them falling as low as sixth. Anything can happen this season for LA, making for some eye-catching predictions.
Not Unreasonable: Byfield Does Not Start the Season With the Kings
The Kings drafted Quinton Byfield second overall at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He is a massive player, standing at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, is a great skater, has solid puck control skills, and has an elite hockey IQ. He possesses a unique combination of assets, and he is seen as LA’s future first-line center.
Byfield played the majority of last season with the Kings’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Ontario Reign. Through 32 games he recorded eight goals and 12 assists. He also played his first six NHL games, putting one assist on the scoresheet. Many think he will play the entirety of the 2021-22 season in the NHL, and while I do think it’s a possibility, I think he starts the season in the AHL.
Typically, the Kings would have to decide whether he should play in the NHL or send him back to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). This season, however, there is an exception for players who played in 20 or more AHL contests last season. Given that Byfield falls into this category of players, I think that LA should take advantage of the opportunity.
The Kings could start Byfield in the AHL, focusing on his development, and easing him into the season. Then, when he proves he’s ready to play with the Kings consistently, they can call him up. I think this option makes for a good compromise between his long-term development, a gain of NHL experience, and LA’s desire to make the playoffs this season.
Bold: Kings Make the Playoffs in 2021-22
For a team that has struggled over the past three seasons and is just now coming out of their rebuild, most are not picking the Kings to make the playoffs this season. That said, I’ve gone in depth on the possibility of LA making the 2022 postseason before; they have the pieces to make it happen and they are in the right division to do it.
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The only two teams in the new Pacific Division that look to be a lock to make the playoffs are the Vegas Golden Knights and the Edmonton Oilers. The Anaheim Ducks are not quite done with their rebuild and the San Jose Sharks seem to be in denial about having to take a step back.
This leaves the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Seattle Kraken, and, of course, the Kings to play for the last two playoff spots. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding all of these teams, so the division will be wide open. LA has the energy of their young forwards; a top starting goalie in Calvin Petersen; and the new additions of Viktor Arvidsson, Phillip Danault, and Alexander Edler — playoffs certainly shouldn’t be out of the question.
The Boldest: Jack Eichel Will Be a King Before the 2022 Trade Deadline
I first want to preface this by saying that I don’t actually predict that this will happen, but if something very unexpected were to happen this season, trading for Jack Eichel could be it. When rumors of an Eichel trade first emerged, the Kings were one of the teams interested.
At the time I said the Kings should not go after Eichel, and my opinion hasn’t changed. Trading for him would create a massive logjam up the middle, given that LA has outstanding center depth, especially in their prospect system.
There was also, and still is, the issue of asking price. The Buffalo Sabres have been rumored to be looking for a return on a healthy Eichel, not the injured player he is now. The Kings have done an incredible job building one of the best prospect pools in the league, and I think there is no reason to move a significant piece of it for a player with a lot of uncertainty surrounding him.
Despite all of this, if Eichel were to come to an agreement on his injury with the Sabres or the Kings and Buffalo brings down their asking price, I could see LA explore the possibility again. A lot would have to go right, and, at this rate, it looks less than likely that the team would even think about making a trade for him, but nothing should be ruled out.
Kings Fans Should Expect the Unexpected This Season
The Kings will be a very fascinating team this season, as there are a ton of questions surrounding every area of the roster. How will Petersen handle the starting role? Will the team’s young defensemen take another step in the right direction? How will the team’s top forward prospects gel with the older veterans?
My point is that the Kings will be an unpredictable team this season. If the answers to all of these questions go LA’s way, I could see them climb as high as third in the division. If everything goes south, on the other hand, they could end up in the bottom three. Either way, this season should mark the end of the team’s rebuild and the start of a new chapter of Kings hockey.
Zackary Weiner is a high school student from New York City who covers the Los Angeles Kings here at The Hockey Writers. He is a lifelong hockey fan and player, and his previous experience includes writing articles about the NHL for various online publications. His articles cover a wide variety of topics that concern the Kings and he takes into account a range of viewpoints, making his articles a perfect read for anyone who wants to stay up to date on the team. Zackary is more than happy to get into a conversation with fellow Kings fans, so feel free to leave a comment below any of his articles like this one to let him know your opinion and what you want to see next. You can also listen to him talk about the team on Fantasy Hockey Life and The Hockey Writers Live.