In this edition of Los Angeles Kings news and rumors, I’ll be discussing the changes to the team’s top line. I will also be discussing Staples Center’s name change, Sean Durzi being called up, and Brandt Clarke being named captain of the Barrie Colts.
Kings New Look Lines
After their shutout loss to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, it looks like coach Todd McLellan feels he needs to shake the lines up a bit. Kings’ insider John Hoven reported on Thursday morning that Adrian Kempe and Dustin Brown had swapped lines in practice, with Kempe moving back onto the top line.
This was then confirmed by Zach Dooley, so it looks like we’ll see a Kempe-Anze Kopitar-Viktor Arvidsson line on Saturday against the Carolina Hurricanes. I love this move and this is exactly what I wanted the team to do when Arvidsson returned from COVID protocol. After starting out the season strong, with five points in five games, Brown has totally fallen off, grabbing just two points in his next 11 games. Kempe has been the opposite, after just one point in his first six games, he hit his groove, posting eight points in his next 10. I also like the idea of putting speed on either side of Kopitar, he is still an elite center, but speed has never been a big part of his game, and at 34 he’s only getting slower. This meant having another slow player in Brown on his line was very harmful. Having the speed of Kempe and Arvidsson on his line should help create more space for Kopitar to do damage in.
Brown also fits a third-line role better now, his point totals aren’t there but he is still an effective forechecker, leading the team in hits this season. They’ve also made another change on the third line, moving Trevor Moore down to the fourth line and inserting Lias Andersson into his spot. I think the Andersson-Rasmus Kupari-Brown line has the potential to be a very good third line. All three guys bring the tenacity you want from a bottom six-line, with the skill to hurt teams on the scoreboard as well. Having Brown’s leadership should also be great for two young players in Andersson and Kupari.
Earlier this week, it was announced that the naming rights to the arena had been sold to Crypto.com, a cryptocurrency platform. The naming rights for the stadium were reportedly bought for a record $700 million. Fans of every team that plays out of Staples Center have voiced displeasure in the change, as many view Staples Center as an iconic arena for their teams. AEG Sports has promised to put some of those $700 million into renovations for the stadium. I think this will be similar to the Anaheim Ducks going from The Pond to The Honda Center, the name will be changed, but fans of certain generations will forever refer to the stadium as Staples Center. The name change will take place on Christmas Day of this year, meaning the Dec. 22, matchup with the Edmonton Oilers will be the last game the Kings play in the Staples Center.
Durzi Earns a Callup
On Friday morning, it was announced that Ontario Reign defensemen Sean Durzi was being called up to the Kings. He replaced Austin Strand on the roster, as Strand has failed to get into a game since the Winnipeg Jets game on Oct. 28. Durzi is having a great season in Ontario, with 13 points in 12 games. If he is to get into a game for the Kings this weekend, I imagine it will be in place of Olli Maatta, who has struggled since coming back into the lineup.
If I had to guess, Kale Clague would slide back over to the left side, pairing with Matt Roy, and Durzi would be paired with Alex Edler. I doubt coach McLellan will want to break up the Mikey Anderson-Tobias Bjornfot pairing right now, so the above changes make the most sense to me. I also like the idea of pairing young, inexperienced defensemen with your most veteran defensemen in Edler. This would be Durzi’s first NHL game, as the team has been patient in his development since acquiring him in the Jake Muzzin trade in 2019. Durzi can also be deployed on the power play, as the top unit desperately needs a right-handed shot at the top, leaving a perfect spot for Durzi.
Brandt Clarke Named Captain
On Wednesday, the Colts named their leadership group for the 2021-22 season, and Kings eighth overall pick from 2021 Clarke was named their captain. Seeing another prospect get named captain of their team after Francesco Pinelli was named captain of the Kitchener Rangers a few weeks back, is a great sign for the Kings. It shows they are drafting good leaders and players with a good mentality.
As I said when Pinelli was named captain, it’s nice seeing proof that the team values personality when drafting players. Every team claims that they are drafting for the person as much as the player, but often that is just lip service. Seeing several prospects named captain of their respective teams shows that the Kings are serious about this effort. As always, director of amateur scouting, Mark Yannetti, and his team deserve a massive amount of credit for the team’s prospect pool. Yannetti’s draft interviews have often been considered interrogations instead of interviews and this method is clearly paying off.
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.