Kings Have Executed a Nearly Perfect Rebuild

The Los Angeles Kings have done it all over the past 10 seasons. The team won two Stanley Cups in the early-2010s before going through several mediocre seasons which eventually led to the beginning of the rebuild that pushed LA to the bottom of the league. This season, however, the team made the postseason for the first time since 2018, showing that the rebuilding phase had come to an end and they were ready to turn things around. Let’s see how they got there.

4/10/17: Kings Fire General Manager Dean Lombardi, Rob Blake Takes Over

Leading up to the firing of the Kings’ general manager (GM), Dean Lombardi, the team had gone through several rough seasons. LA just missed the 2015 Playoffs, finishing fourth in the Pacific Division; this was a big letdown considering they won the Stanley Cup the season prior. They then came back strong in the 2015-16 season, finishing second in the Pacific, only to lose in five games to the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the playoffs. In the season prior to Lombardi’s termination, the team missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, finishing fifth in the Pacific. Rob Blake was named the new GM of the Kings and took over the team that summer.

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

In his first season as the GM, LA was able to get back to the postseason but saw another early exit after getting swept by the Vegas Golden Knights. It was clear the core from the team’s Cup runs in the early-2010s wasn’t going to win another championship, so Blake initiated the rebuild and began the process of dealing veterans and gathering prospects that would make up the future core.

2017-18: Kings Sign Key Free Agents

From the time Blake took over the Kings to the end of the 2017-18 season, LA signed several free agents, including some undrafted ones. Even though those players were looked over at their respective drafts or by the teams that did draft them, they now play a crucial role for the team and will continue to do so going forward.

4/18/17: Kings Sign Alex Iafallo

Just over a week after Blake became the GM of the Kings, he signed Alex Iafallo to a two-year, $1.85 million contract. Iafallo played his college hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and he exploded in his senior year with 21 goals and 30 assists in just 42 games.

Iafallo hopped right into the Kings’ lineup during the 2017-18 season and put up 25 points. Though his offensive production has never been stellar, that’s not necessarily his role. Head coach of the team, Todd McLellan, said, “He’s, in my opinion, a Swiss Army knife. I feel good about putting him on the ice in every situation.” As the core of the Stanley Cup teams gets older, Iafallo will play a huge leadership role for the Kings’ young roster moving forward.

7/1/17: Kings Sign Calvin Petersen

Calvin Petersen was initially drafted by the Buffalo Sabres at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, 129th overall. He ended up becoming a free agent, and, after three impressive seasons at the University of Notre Dame, the Kings signed him to a two-year, $1.85 million contract.

Cal Petersen (Notre Dame Athletics)

Petersen played his first games with the Kings in the 2018-19 season but didn’t get significant time in goal until 2020-21. He had a solid campaign, posting a .911 save percentage (SV%), 2.89 goals-against average (GAA), and 4.88 goals saved above expected (GSAx). Though he took a step back last season as Jonathan Quick retook the net, LA isn’t giving up on him yet, and they shouldn’t, as he could be the goalie of the future.

7/2/18: Kings Sign Sean Walker

The Kings signed Sean Walker after his fourth and final season with Bowling Green State University to a two-year, $1.49 million contract. He played his first full season with the team in the 2019-20 season, scoring five goals and 19 assists in 70 games, finishing second in points among LA defensemen behind just Drew Doughty.

Walker suffered a serious injury at the beginning of the 2021-22 season, so he only saw six games. As the now 27-year-old continues to recover from injury, he will look to play a leadership role on a Kings’ blue line that is getting increasingly younger by the day.

1/28/19: Blake Makes First Trade of the Rebuild

After the Kings’ early playoff exit in 2019, Blake began to rebuild the team, starting with a significant trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. LA dealt Jake Muzzin to Toronto in exchange for Carl Grundstrom, Sean Durzi, and a 2019 first-round pick — the Kings ended up selecting Tobias Bjornfot with the pick.

Tobias Bjornfot LA Kings
Tobias Bjornfot, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the Kings’ 2022 first-round series with the Edmonton Oilers, Grundstrom and Durzi were both impact players. Over six games, Grundstrom scored one goal and three assists, and Durzi recorded the most ice time per game among LA defensemen, playing 21:30 per night, on average.

6/21/19-6/22/19: Kings Select 9 Times at 2019 NHL Entry Draft

The Kings finished the 2018-19 season 30th in the league and last in the Western Conference with a record of 31-42-9. After being granted a top pick at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the team was ready to begin building the prospect pool that rose to one of the best in the league.

The Kings held two first-round picks at that draft, selecting Alex Turcotte fifth overall and Bjornfot with Toronto’s pick. Turcotte had a rough 2021-22 season with LA’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Ontario Reign, battling injury. Long-term, however, he is expected to be a top two-way forward for the Kings.

Arthur Kaliyev was then selected 33rd overall, which may have been the steal of the draft. He possessed top-10 offensive talent, but many teams avoided him due to concerns about his defensive play. In his professional career with the Reign and Kings thus far, he has shown his offensive skill at times, but what is even more impressive is the complete turnaround he has shown in his own zone.

Arthur Kaliyev Los Angeles Kings
Arthur Kaliyev, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

During the 2020-21 season, former head coach of the Reign, John Wroblewski had this to say when asked what he would have thought before the season if he was told Kaliyev would lead the team in goals: “I wouldn’t be surprised in the goals department, you know my thoughts on Arty…but Arty has bought in completely to the idea of being a 200-foot player, and he is one of our more reliable players in our defensive system…hats off to him for his dedication, and even when pucks weren’t going in for him…he didn’t change his game, he didn’t revert back to junior habits, he kept pushing on his faith in the system, and the faith in the work ethic he has been putting in has been commendable.”

The Kings went on to trade picks 64 and 126 to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for the 50th overall pick, selecting Samuel Fagemo. He is an elite offensive talent who possesses a shot that is rare to come across, and he could be a top-six forward for the Kings down the road.

Another great pick for the Kings at the draft was selecting Jordan Spence 95th overall. With Doughty injured, Spence was an integral part of the team’s blue line throughout the playoff race last season. He played the fifth most of any King per game, skating 19:45, on average. He also put up the team’s fifth-best Corsi for percentage (CF%) — third-best for those playing more than eight games — at 57.71 percent, meaning LA possessed the puck significantly more than their opponent with him on the ice.

Overall, it was a near-perfect draft for the Kings from start to finish and helped build the foundation of the team’s elite prospect pool that they enjoy today.

February 2020: Kings Lean Into Rebuild, Dealing Several Veterans

In February of 2020, the Kings made several trades, moving veteran players for picks and prospects. While these trades further stripped down the team’s core, they were crucial when it came to accelerating the rebuild.

2/5/2020: Kings Trade Campbell, Clifford to Toronto

The first trade of the month saw Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford being sent to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Trevor Moore, a 2020 third-round pick — the Kings selected Alex Laferriere with the pick — and a 2021 third-round pick which was later traded to the Calgary Flames.

This trade has worked out well for both teams so far. Campbell got a chance as the starting goalie in Toronto, and Moore had a breakout season in 2021-22. From Jan. 1, 2022, to the end of the season, Moore led the Kings in points, scoring 14 goals and 27 assists in 49 games. He also placed second on the team in points through the first round of the playoffs, tallying two goals and three assists in the seven-game series against the Edmonton Oilers. What’s even more impressive was his overall contribution to the team, recording 1.5 wins above replacement (WAR) over the course of the season — a figure that ranked second on the team.

Moore’s 2021-22 season makes the Kings the clear winners of this trade, and if he continues to play as he has been, he will be at the core of the team’s future.

2/17/2020: Kings Trade Toffoli to Vancouver

After moving Campbell and Clifford to the Maple Leafs, Blake traded Tyler Toffoli to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Tim Schaller, Tyler Madden, a 2020 second-round pick, which the Kings traded to the Detroit Red Wings, and a 2022 conditional fourth-round pick.

Tyler Toffoli Calgary Flames
Tyler Toffoli, formerly of the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The highlight of this trade for the Kings was Madden, a solid center prospect. This season, the 22-year-old played for the Reign and ranked seventh on the team in points, as he put up 14 goals and 17 assists in 48 games. While the team has a plethora of top center prospects, he certainly has the potential to find a spot in LA at some point.

2/19/2020: Kings Trade Martinez to Vegas

The final trade the Kings made in February 2020 saw Alec Martinez heading to the Golden Knights in exchange for a 2020 second-round pick, which the Kings traded to the New York Rangers, and a 2021 second-round pick, which the Kings traded to the Ottawa Senators.

This was a tough trade for Kings fans, as Martinez scored multiple overtime goals during the 2014 Playoffs, including the Stanley Cup-winning goal at home. Even though he was a crucial part of the team’s success in the early-2010s, the option to move him for two second-round picks was too good to pass up for the rebuilding Kings at the time.

6/26/20: Kings Secure Second-Overall Pick in Draft Lottery

The Kings went into the draft lottery with a 9.5 percent chance at the first-overall pick, and the team came out of the lottery holding the second-overall pick. The 2020 Draft was one of the deepest in recent memory, and LA got the opportunity to select a potential future franchise player with the pick.

10/6/20-10/7/20: Kings Select Another 9 Prospects at 2020 NHL Entry Draft

After being granted the second-overall pick in the draft, fans were eager to hear who the team’s next top prospect would be. Some expected the Kings to select Tim Stutzle, as a winger would have fit better into LA’s prospect pool, but they ended up going with Quinton Byfield who was the favorite to go second overall. While he has yet to show the offensive production he is capable of, he is just 19 years old and battled through injury recently.

Quinton Byfield LA Kings
Quinton Byfield, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In the second round of the draft, the Kings traded picks 51 and 97 to the Red Wings in exchange for pick 45, drafting Brock Faber. Having played the 2021-22 season with the University of Minnesota, he is one of the team’s top defensive prospects and was selected to play for Team USA at both the World Junior Championship (WJC) and the Olympics last season.

The Kings also pulled off two major steals at the draft, selecting wingers Kasper Simontaival and Martin Chromiak. The team took Simontaival 66th overall and Chromiak 128th overall, and they were ranked as high as 26th and 29th, respectively. That draft saw even more massive additions to the Kings’ prospect pool, which continued its rise to one of the best in the league.

4/12/21: Kings Move Carter to Pittsburgh

This trade came towards the end of the Kings’ rebuild and was another tough one for the team to swallow. Jeff Carter had played 10 seasons in Los Angeles and was there for both Stanley Cups in the early 2010s. Towards the end of his 10 seasons, however, his play drastically declined and Blake was able to move him for a 2022 conditional third-round pick and a 2023 conditional fourth-round pick, which was great value for how he was performing. The 2020-21 season was the last to see moves like this, as the team began to bulk up for the 2021-22 campaign.

7/1/21: Kings Trade for Arvidsson

At the conclusion of the 2020-21 season, Doughty said in his exit interview, “With all this cap room, yeah, we got to bring guys in, that’s it, for sure. There’s no point in just waiting for these prospects to develop when you’ve got guys in their prime, guys that are hungry to win, and guys that are sick of losing, so, yeah, we got to bring guys in.”

Blake listened to his franchise player and traded a 2021 second-round pick, which the Nashville Predators eventually traded to the Carolina Hurricanes, and a 2022 third-round pick for Viktor Arvidsson. He was once a 60-point player, and even though he had a couple of down seasons, bringing in the now 29-year-old winger ended up being the first step in building up the Kings to contenders once again. He rebounded in LA, scoring 20 goals and 29 assists in his first 66 games with the team.

7/23/21-7/24/21: Kings Take New Approach to 2021 NHL Entry Draft

After selecting 18 times over the previous two drafts, Blake and the Kings took a different approach to the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, picking just four times, and trading up for three of those picks. That draft was just another reminder that the rebuild was coming to a close; instead of getting as many prospects as possible, the team had just a few holes in the prospect pool to fill and they made sure to get the specific prospects they needed.

The Kings still held a relatively high pick in the draft, as they selected Brandt Clarke eighth overall. This was a crucial pick for the team, as they possessed arguably the best forward prospect pool in the league, but their defense did not show the same depth. Doughty is now 32 years old. Like Doughty, Clarke is an offensively gifted, right-shot defenseman. If everything goes as planned, Clarke will be able to fill Doughty’s role once he retires or moves down the lineup.

Brandt Clarke Barrie Colts
Brandt Clarke of the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

For the Kings’ remaining picks, they traded up to take another three prospects. First, they traded picks 49 and 136 to the Senators in exchange for pick 42, selecting Francesco Pinelli. This pick could end up being the steal of the draft, as the well-rounded center was projected to go at least in the first round, and he was projected by some to go as high as 16th overall.

The Kings then traded picks 72 and 109 to the Hurricanes in exchange for pick 59, selecting Samuel Helenius. The main thing Helenius adds to the prospect pool is size — he stands at an eye-popping 6-foot-6, 201 pounds. Finally, LA traded picks 89 and 168 to the Flames in exchange for pick 84, selecting Kirill Kirsanov. This was another impressive pick, adding a defensive defenseman who was projected to go as high as 55th overall to round out the prospect pool.

7/28/21: Kings Add 2 Important Pieces in Free Agency

Less than a week after the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, the Kings continued to make moves in free agency, signing two players that became key pieces of the team during the 2021-22 season. The more significant of the two signings was Phillip Danault, who Blake inked to a six-year, $33 million contract.

Phillip Danault, Los Angeles Kings
Phillip Danault, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

Some considered this an overpay for the defensive play and faceoff skills that Danault is known for, but he proved to be one of the most valuable free agent signings in the entire NHL this past season. He did contribute what he was expected to, but he also had a breakout season offensively. He put up 27 goals and 24 assists in 79 games, putting him third on the team in points, and he ranked first on the team for his 3.33 expected goals for per 60 rate (xGF/60).

Related: Kings’ Newest Players Each Address a Specific Need

The Kings also made a more minor, yet valuable, signing to add to the roster, bringing in veteran defenseman Alexander Edler on a one-year $3.5 million contract. He did exactly what he was brought in to do, recording the second-best individual blocks per 60 rate (iBLK/60) on the team, with a rate of 5.55.

Those two free-agent signings further proved that the Kings were ready to win going into the 2021-22 season and that the rebuild had come to a close.

4/20/22: Kings Trade for Stecher at the Trade Deadline

This trade was the only roster move the Kings made at the trade deadline, sending a 2022 seventh-round pick to the Red Wings in exchange for Troy Stecher. This was also the first time LA added at the deadline since the start of the rebuild as the team prepared for their playoff run. It wasn’t a major move, but Stecher was an impact player during the playoffs, scoring two goals and adding another two assists in just four games in the first-round loss versus the Oilers.

4/26/22: Kings Clinch Playoff Spot for First Time Since 2018

The Kings’ tight playoff race with the Golden Knights came to an end in late April after Vegas lost to the Dallas Stars in a shootout. The game was a goaltending battle, with Logan Thompson and Jake Oettinger making 28 and 33 saves, respectively, each allowing two through regulation. The shootout also stayed scoreless until the 13th attempt, when Miro Heiskanen buried the game-winning goal for the Stars. The Golden Knights taking only one of two points available meant they weren’t going to be able to catch the Kings, who sat third in the Pacific Division, sending LA to the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

The Kings’ rebuild was incredibly successful; they built a top prospect pool and were able to get back to the playoffs sooner than expected. LA went into the 2021-22 season knowing the rebuild was over, but making the 2022 Postseason proved that fact to the rest of the league.

Future is Bright in Los Angeles

While losing in the first round of the 2022 Playoffs was undoubtedly disappointing, last season showed how much there is to look forward to. The Kings have executed a nearly perfect rebuild, as they possess a perfect balance of veterans, breakout players, and future stars. The team will continue to build experience next season as they continue their mission to bring the Stanley Cup back to Los Angeles.

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