On Wednesday morning, Los Angeles Kings insider John Hoven dropped a big piece of news, announcing that forward Martin Frk would be playing in Thursday’s matchup against the Nashville Predators. This will be Frk’s first game since Feb. 5, 2021, after spending most of last season injured. He’s been red hot to start the 2021-22 season in the American Hockey League, currently second in both points and goals.
Many fans have been calling for Frk to get a chance with the NHL roster, and these prayers have finally been answered. This will be a big chance, and possibly his last chance, to stake his claim on the Kings roster, so I wanted to take a look at how his season debut might look.
Where Frk Will Play
Soon after Hoven’s announcement, the Kings took morning practice and seeing where Frk lined up had to be one of the most interesting topics at practice today. Kings’ insider Zach Dooley soon after reported that Frk was put on the first line with Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe. I’m a bit torn about his spot in the lineup. On one hand, I love that he’s being given a real chance in the team’s top six, but on the other hand, I’m not sure this line is a great fit for him. Considering Frk’s deficiencies, the best situation for him would be to play with two players who are solid defensively, good forecheckers, and distributors. While Kopitar is great defensively and as a distributor, I’m worried that Frk and Kempe won’t be a match made in heaven.
Both players struggle defensively, and both players are looking to finish off plays as goal scorers. With the current wingers, I’m worried that this line might get overran in their zone and give up a lot of chances against. On the flip side of that, if Kempe and Frk can strike the right balance, this line could be a real danger offensively. Kempe has been almost exclusively a goal scorer this season, with 14 goals and just six assists, but his micro stats paint a different picture. He’s creating a lot of shot assists, meaning his passes are leading directly to shots, and a lot of his passes result in high danger chances for teammates. With this in mind, Frk might be a perfect candidate to finish off the high danger chances Kempe is creating.
Frk and Kempe also have a history together, as they were linemates for much of Frk’s 17 games with the team in 2019-20. With Gabriel Vilardi as their center, their line posted fantastic analytics and raw totals. But, this will be in a much bigger role, against harder matchups than they faced in 2019-20. This feels like a high risk, high reward top line, as they might score a lot of goals, but might also give up an equal amount.
What Frk Can Bring
Frk is one of the best goal scorers not playing in the NHL currently. He has consistently been one of the best goal scorers in the American Hockey League (AHL) over the last five years but has been unable to translate that success into the NHL. He possesses one of the hardest shots in the world and is accurate enough to beat goalies consistently. If he finds himself with the puck in a dangerous area, more often than not it ends up in the back of the net.
Frk isn’t a creative player or a great passer, his game is all about scoring goals. He also has good speed and isn’t afraid to get involved physically. On that first line, he’ll be looking to cash in on the space Kempe’s size and speed bring and will hopefully make good use of Kopitar’s elite playmaking. Dustin Brown was relegated to the third line to make room for Frk, so there might be a chance for him to make this spot his own for the rest of this season.
He’s also a power-play specialist, the Kings have one of the worst power plays in the league and are in desperate need of reinforcements with the man advantage. His one-timer is second to none, as he sets up in Alexander Ovechkin’s office and unloads monster one-timers, and according to former AHL goaltender Mike McKenna, his shot from that spot is just as intimidating as Ovechkin’s. He will be the perfect fit for the Kings’ power play as well, a big shot from the left circle will be great with Kopitar and Drew Doughty running the show on the right side. If Kopitar and Doughty can consistently find him, he’ll grab a few power-play goals.
Another interesting tidbit from McKenna’s article is the references to his work ethic. Multiple people have called Frk a rink rat, and someone who’s always putting in the work to get better. This isn’t a case of a high-skilled player being lazy or unwilling to put in the effort to play at the highest level, Frk has the talent and drive to succeed.
A Massive Chance for Frk
As I mentioned before, this could be Frk’s last chance to claim a spot on the Kings roster. An injury last season stopped what was supposed to be his breakout season with the Kings, and player additions and prospects earning a spot forced him out of the lineup early this season. But, he now has the chance to prove he should be in the NHL, and given a spot on the top line, he will finally be given a big-time role in the NHL.
It is not often that a forward becomes an NHL regular for the first time at 28-years-old, in fact, I can’t think of a single example of that happening, but there’s a first time for everything. Frk has the tools, and the work ethic to make it happen, but he has to take this chance with both hands. If he can stick on the roster, it is a good lesson in patience for fans and teams alike, obviously, you don’t want to rely on a player breaking out at 28, but it’s a good reminder that every player develops at a different pace.
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.