In this edition of Los Angeles Kings news & rumors, I’ll be discussing Brock Faber’s stellar performance at the Olympics, the team’s imminent return to play, and a check-in on the Ontario Reign.
Brock Faber Shining in Beijing
Many Kings fans were excited to see how Faber, a 2020 second-round pick, would do at the Olympic games after the World Junior Championships he was set to star in was canceled. To say he has excelled would be an understatement. While his one point in three games doesn’t jump off the page, producing offense has never been his game, and it’s been his defensive prowess that has caught the eyes of many, including his coaches. With Ottawa Senators prospect Jake Sanderson missing the first game and getting injured in game two against Team Canada, Faber is the youngest defenseman on the team and is already the most trusted. He has led the team in time-on-ice the last two games, with 24:04 played against Canada and 25:48 against Germany.
He also leads American skaters in average time-on-ice, averaging 24:45 a game. The 19-year-old blueliner has been one of the best defensemen in college hockey this season and has carried that play over to the Olympics. A reliable presence on the back end, Faber excels at shutting down the opposition’s best players and can be trusted to play in the most difficult scenarios.
Related: Kings Need to Look for Trade Opportunities Soon
I’ve recently discussed the logjam that is developing at right defense in the Kings’ system, and the rapid improvement of Faber recently only increases this issue. Originally, the plan seemed to be for him to join the Reign at the end of his college season and spend next season in the American Hockey League (AHL). While that’s still a viable option, his stellar play makes the AHL less necessary than before. Many people feel Faber will be ready for the NHL by the end of this season and certainly think he’ll be ready come the start of next season. If that is the case, the Kings will have some very difficult decisions to make with Faber, Sean Durzi, Sean Walker, Matt Roy, and Drew Doughty all available on the right side.
A trade involving a right-shot defenseman seems inevitable for the Kings soon, and it will be interesting to see who the team values most. This also doesn’t factor in Jordan Spence or Helge Grans, who are impressing in their first AHL season. The team is loaded with right-shot defensive prospects, so moving a few on to bolster the left side seems like the smart move.
Kings Return to Play Tuesday
After nearly two weeks without a game, the Kings will finally return to play Tuesday night against the Edmonton Oilers. A makeup for the postponed game on Dec. 22nd, the Kings will be hoping to carry over the huge momentum they built on the six-game road trip that proceeded the break. It’s the team’s first in-division game since their heavy 6-2 loss versus the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 17, and it’s an important game in the playoff race, as the Oilers are just four points behind the Kings. Many fans are concerned that this break will cause the team to come out flat on Tuesday, which is a fair concern. Fortunately, the Oilers will be in the second game of a back-to-back and should be tired themselves. The Oilers are trying to get their season back on track after firing head coach Dave Tippet last week.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to watch for in my eyes is the play of Trevor Moore. Moore is currently playing the best hockey of his career, scoring 18 points in his last 14 games. His play, along with his linemates Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson, was crucial during a great month of January for the Kings, and they’ll need to sustain their play if the team wants to continue winning games. While I don’t think it’s realistic for Moore to sustain this over point-per-game pace for the remainder of the season, if he can continue to be a positive presence on the second line, that should be enough. He has continually improved since joining the Kings in 2020, and it appears that we’re seeing further improvement from him now.
Ontario Reign Check-in
Last weekend, the Reign played in a huge back-to-back against the Stockton Heat; it was the top two teams in the Pacific Division facing off against one another as the Reign looked to overtake the Heat atop the division. As usual, the Reign’s offensive power was evident throughout the weekend, posting five goals in both games. They took the first game 5-2 before losing the second game 6-5 in the shootout. Gabe Vilardi put together another strong weekend despite no points in the first game, but he came out in the second game and buried two goals as he continues to push for a spot on the NHL roster. Rasmus Kupari got back onto the scoresheet, scoring twice in the second game as well, and Alex Turcotte continues to improve offensively.
Arguably the two most impressive performances came from Tyler Madden and Jaret Anderson-Dolan, though. Anderson-Dolan continues with his torrid pace of late, extending his current point streak to five games, with eight points in those five games. He was sent back to Ontario this season to re-discover his offensive touch, as he lost it last season in the NHL, and it appears he has done that and more. Blake Lizotte has been solid this season for the Kings, but it would come as no surprise if he was replaced by Anderson-Dolan next season, as the young center is creeping up on becoming a point-per-game player for the Reign.
Madden struggled a bit last season after a shoulder injury forced him to play just 14 games in his first season of professional hockey, but he is really starting to find his game now. He has a unique level of creativity and ingenuity with the puck on his stick to go along with an incredible motor, which makes him an intriguing prospect. A late bloomer in many ways, he could be a wild card to be a big impact for the Kings moving forward.
Madden’s ceiling is still undefined, as it’s still undetermined how he can translate his offense to the highest level, but his motor and hockey IQ should make him an effective player in several roles. As someone who wasn’t a Kings draft pick and didn’t have much hype after his draft, Madden can often be forgotten in the team’s incredible prospect pool, but no one should sleep on him. He’s exceeded expectations at every level up to this point, and there’s no reason to suspect he won’t do it again.
Kings Look to Start Second Half Hot
The Kings’ goal for this season has always been to make a postseason return, and hitting the ground running during this restart will go a long way in making that happen. This isn’t the extremely streaky team we saw at the start of this season, but a few losses after the long break could be very detrimental. Their next two games are against the Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights, and depending on which Oilers team shows up, that could be a brutal two games. Fortunately, they have two games against the Arizona Coyotes after the Knights game, but we’ve seen this season what can happen when you take the Coyotes lightly. It’s getting close to the time that every game is a must-win, and the Kings will have to be sharp during this period.