Tyler Toffoli is worth a king’s ransom, and general manager Rob Blake knows it. There is no doubt the Los Angeles Kings general manager has had a few offers for the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, but Blake hasn’t pulled the trigger. The delay, for whatever reason, is looking more ingenious every game and is going to pay off for the Kings on deadline day, Feb. 24.
Toffoli had a slow start to the season, but anyone watching No. 73 lately has been witness to a skilled defensive forward who is heavy on the puck, can kill penalties and has some pretty fantastic hands around the net. The hat trick performance against the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 15, the first hat trick scored by a player in an NHL outdoor game, just gave proof of Toffoli’s hard work on the scoresheet. What the scoresheet doesn’t show are some excellent defensive plays, offensive setups, and getting into it twice with the Avalanche’s Andre Burakovsky in the third period.
Return of the Selke Style
Since the Kings became sellers, scouts have been watching and what they saw during the outdoor game was much more than a hat trick. In the first period, the Avs were pounding the Kings with shots 12-1. Then, on a four-on-four chance, the dangerous Nathan MacKinnon turned on the jets and took off down the ice. The only man on his way to the net was Toffoli, skating backward, keeping MacKinnon in front of him, stalling him and allowing Jonathan Quick to handle the chance much easier than without Toffoli.
A few nights earlier with the Calgary Flames in the Staples Center, the Kings were killing a first-period power play. Toffoli played Matthew Tkachuk at the left point forcing him to fire the puck in deep, it rings around the board to Sean Monahan who now has Toffoli in his face at the right point. Monahan quickly passes the puck over to Tkachuk who starts his move toward the net, while Monahan shadows him on the other side. Tkachuk waits, then feeds a perfect pass back to Monahan who has a wide-open opportunity but is left swinging at air after a Toffoli backcheck and stick lift to leave Monahan empty while Toffoli is skating down the ice to give his team a much-needed line change.
These plays happen in seconds but it was a quick reminder of when Toffoli received votes for the Frank J. Selke Trophy for the NHL’s best defensive forward during the 2014-15 season. He followed that season up with a 31-goal performance and a plus/minus of plus-35. The stats since then have dropped off, as they have for the majority of the Kings, however, Toffoli has had two twenty-goal seasons and surely has more goals in those silky hands.
Tomorrow’s Tyler Toffoli
The Kings organization has been home for Toffoli since the Scarborough, Ontario native entered the NHL. The Kings drafted him in the second round, 47th overall in the 2010 Entry Draft. He got 10 games with the Kings in 2012-13 season before becoming a full-time part of the top-six forward group, winning a Stanley Cup in 2014. His recent performance is making for a pretty nice parting gift for his Kings. Judging by the social media traffic following his hat trick performance, the Kings faithful don’t want to see him go, but they know it’s the best thing for both the Kings and Toffoli – he gets a chance at another Stanley Cup, while his team will get some impressive pieces to continue a rebuild that is in full swing.
Who gets him? Every day a new rumour pops up, but really this should become an auction with every team considered a buyer. A defensive forward, who produces 20-goal seasons and has the experience of a Stanley Cup? Let’s start the bidding at a first-round pick.
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Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.