The Los Angeles Kings‘ Thursday night game against the Nashville Predators featured two separate debuts. It was Martin Frk’s season debut and first game since Feb. 5, 2021, while defenseman Jacob Moverare was making his NHL debut. Unfortunately, the game ended in a 4-2 loss for the Kings, but the team can hold their heads high after putting together a strong performance against one of the league’s best teams. This extends to the two debutantes as well, with both players putting together strong performances. Let’s take a deeper dive into their respective debuts.
To properly analyze Frk’s game, it’s important to remember why he was in the lineup. In a word, goals. He was called up from the Ontario Reign and given a chance on the first line and top power-play unit purely to add another goal scorer onto this Kings roster. In this game, he was able to provide it, scoring a power-play goal halfway through the third period. Not a prototypical Frk power-play tally, as this came from the right circle and was more about placement than power, although it is insane how much power he generates from a half wind up. He improved the power play overall as well. At times they tried forcing the puck to him too much but having the big shot threat certainly helped.
While help on the power play is great, it isn’t enough to only be an impact with the man advantage; you have to be effective at 5-on-5 as well. Fortunately, Frk was exactly that, as he posted solid numbers and was not a defensive liability. He wasn’t stellar defensively and had some lapses but was far from terrible. He was a minus-one, but the goal against was hardly his fault. With him on the ice at 5-on-5, the Kings controlled 67.7 percent of the expected goals, 59.3 percent of the shot attempts (Corsi), and 73.7 percent of unblocked shot attempts. Add in four hits, tied for the team lead in this game, and you have a very solid statistical performance from Frk. He passed the eye test as well, as he looked dangerous throughout the game and did enough defensively to not be a liability.
Related: Kings’ Frk Expected to Play Big Role in Season Debut
I think Frk did enough to retain his spot on the top line, at least until Alex Iafallo returns from COVID protocol. And even then, I’d rather see Iafallo return to the second line and Trevor Moore return to the third line with Frk staying put when that happens. The team has tried several players at right wing on the first line with limited success, so Frk’s solid showing in game one should earn him a few more games there. Now, I’m not saying Frk is the team’s best right-wing, nor that he’s the savior for a Kings team struggling for goals, but he certainly fills a specific need and did as well as anyone in that spot this season. It’s worth noting that according to LA Kings Insider’s Zach Dooley, it appears Frk will remain on that line Saturday versus the Detroit Red Wings.
Moverare is a player who I like a lot, and someone that I suggested should replace Alex Edler when his injury first occurred, so I was very happy to see him in the lineup Thursday night. He’s a great example of how beneficial patient development can be, especially when looking at defensemen. A 2016 draft pick, the same year Kale Clague was selected, he has put in the work across three different pro leagues in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), the Finish Liiga, and the AHL to earn this chance.
He played exactly the kind of game you’d expect from him as well; no flash, just an effective, sound performance. The coaches clearly have faith in him, giving the young defensemen 14:48 of ice time, including 1:09 of penalty kill time. This was 30 seconds more than Tobias Bjornfot and the fifth most ice time on the team. It was a low-event game for him and defense partner Matt Roy, as they faced few scoring chances and created only a few themselves. The biggest one they gave up was when Predators forward Filip Forsberg danced Roy and put a shot on Jonathan Quick, and their best chance came when Moverare got walked the puck in and shot. He was defensively sound, engaged physically, and delivered clean breakout passes. You can’t ask for much more in his debut. He also gave a great post-game interview.
Like Frk, I think Moverare did enough in a tough game against the Predators to keep his spot in the lineup for a few games. He isn’t the answer to the Kings’ offensive issues on the back end, but he can be an effective blueliner moving forward. Unrelated to his play, I did want to point out his comment about Brendan Lemieux pulling him aside and giving him words of encouragement before his debut. Moverare stated:
“I think all the players helped me a lot, then Brendand Lemieux took me aside and gave a little good talk that I really was thankful for, I think that helped me a lot.”
It seems as though Brady Tkachuk’s comments that Lemieux is a bad teammate hold very little truth, as he continues to get named by Kings players as a great locker room presence. Stepping up and fighting Mark Borowiecki after his hit on Arthur Kaliyev will only further the players’ love for Lemieux as well.
Kings Continue Finding Answers Within
When Drew Doughty and Sean Walker went out early in the season, many fans wanted the Kings to go out and acquire replacements. The same can be said for Edler’s injury, and several fans have expressed a desire to see them go out and acquire a dangerous forward. However, the Kings keep finding a way to fill these holes from within the organization, and they may have done this again with Frk and Moverare.
Again, Frk is not the long-term answer as the top-line right-wing, and Moverare isn’t the left-shot offensive defenseman they need to take the next step, but both players can certainly hold the team over in the short term and make an impact. Both players should get a chance against the Red Wings on Saturday, hopefully further cementing themselves into the Kings’ lineup.