In this edition of Los Angeles Kings news & rumors, I’ll be discussing the injury bug which has continued to ravage the team’s lineup, Jonathan Quick playing in his 700th career game, and another check-in on the Ontario Reign.
Injury’s Continue to Pile Up
The injury situation has gone from bad to worse for the Kings, with Viktor Arvidsson, Brendan Lemieux, Alex Elder, Sean Walker, Andreas Athanasiou, Drew Doughty, and Mikey Anderson all injured heading into Thursday’s game against the San Jose Sharks, the list continued to grow this weekend. Doughty, who was originally day-to-day, was placed on injured reserve, Matt Roy was hurt in Saturday’s 5-0 loss against the Sharks, as was Dustin Brown. To make matters worse, Tobias Bjornfot left Sunday’s game against the Florida Panthers in overtime, after suffering an apparent knee injury. If Bjornfot is indeed hurt, that would mean all six defensemen who played on opening night for the Kings would be injured at the same time.
The Kings are now missing a potential 10 skaters, more than half your lineup, while in the middle of a playoff push. Most teams would crumble under these circumstances, but the team has shown an incredible amount of resistance and shown off impressive organizational depth. It has been a “next-man-up” mentality recently, with players coming up from the Reign and playing well. Sean Durzi did this earlier in the season, and now we’re seeing players like Jacob Moverare, Jordan Spence, Gabriel Vilardi, Rasmus Kupari, and even Austin Strand do the same. If Bjornfot is out, Christian Wolanin will likely be the next player up. In this scenario, the Kings would be icing a blue line that has just 139 games played amongst five of their six, with Olli Maatta being the only defenseman with over 100 games played. Adding his total, the games played is still just 653 games played,
At forward, the Kings are in a similar boat, with several players having less than a full season under their belt. Fortunately, they still have a few seasoned players, with Anze Kopitar, Phillip Danault, Alex Iafallo, and Adrian Kempe all leading the way. Unfortunately, Kopitar, Kempe, and Iafallo are all experiencing a lengthy drought. The Kings will have to show more resilience in the coming weeks and might have to look into the trade market depending on how long some of these injuries are. Crucially, the team cannot panic buy over the next week.
Quick Plays in Game 700
Adding another milestone to his legendary career, Sunday’s game against the Panthers was number 700 for Quick, putting him in the top 30 for games played. He also registered win number 352, getting him closer to Tom Barrasso’s 369 wins. If Quick surpasses Barrasso, he will take sole possession of the third place in wins by American goalies, further cementing his legacy. A borderline Hockey Hall of Famer, there’s no doubt that he will be inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
In what looked to be a complete resurgence from Quick this season, starting out in near Vezina Trophy form, Quick has fallen away a bit recently. Many fans have called for Cal Petersen, who has improved a lot recently, to take the starting job, but Quick stood tall on Sunday. He allowed just two goals on 32 shots, posted .88 goals saved above expected, and stopped four out of five shootout attempts. His play might have fallen off a little bit recently, but he’s still been far better than he was in previous years and is an important leader for this team. It’s unknown if he keeps the starting job through this season, and even more unknown if he keeps it next season, but Quick is a Kings’ legend and added to his resume on Sunday with game 700.
There have been three games since my last Reign check, and surprisingly, the Reign has gone 1-2 since then. While this isn’t bad, it is a bit surprising for a team that’s been so dominant all season. Perhaps more surprising, they were shut out Saturday against the San Diego Gulls. The injuries to the Kings have hurt them, but it will also affect the Reign, as they have now lost several players. With Vilardi, Kupari, Spence, Strand, Moverare, Frk, and Wolanin, all on the Kings roster, the Reign are now missing seven key players. Not to mention Lias Andersson returning to the Kings after a fantastic four-game stint. Frk, Vilardi, and Spence are likely the biggest losses, as all three players were a massive part of this team’s high-powered offense and power play in particular. They shouldn’t be gone forever, but their absence will be felt over the next few weeks, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of them play their way onto the Kings roster permanently.
With nothing really of note happening over the last three Reign games, I wanted to touch on one player in particular, and that’s Helge Grans. With Spence and Stand both on the Kings roster, Grans will be asked to step up in a big way for the Reign. Spence has stolen the spotlight in Ontario this season, and for good reason, but fans should not forget about Grans, as many still see him as the higher potential prospect. Kings insider John Hoven made a comment to that effect in a recent episode of Kings of The Podcast, and there was a comment in a recent Athletic article that suggests the same. In an article discussing potential blue-chip prospects the Vancouver Canucks could target, senior writer Thomas Drance made a very interesting comment on the young defensemen.
“Meanwhile at the AHL level, Swedish-born blue line prospect Helge Grans is, by the estimation of some pro scouts, the most polished defenseman ouside of the NHL at the moment.”from “Braden Schneider, Bowen Byram and 8 more blue-chip young defenders the Canucks could target at the deadline,” The Athletic, Mar. 7, 2022
While Grans wasn’t the blue-chip prospect highlighted, Durzi was, I was most intrigued by this comment. While it is just one sentence, it says a lot, this isn’t just some writer saying Grans is good, it’s someone confirming that pro scouts are very high on him. As someone who’s high on Grans themselves, I was even surprised to see such high praise. Interestingly, Spence was not mentioned in this article at all, as it seems he doesn’t hold the same value in the eyes of Drance, and possibly the scouts he talked to.
Now, this isn’t to say fans shouldn’t be very excited about Spence, or even that Grans will definitely be the better player, but no one should forget about Grans either. He’s one of just four under-20 defensemen in the entire American Hockey League (AHL) and has by far the best numbers of the four, while still learning how to play defense, having only converted to the position four years ago. The Kings have an embarrassment of riches at right defense, and as I’ve said a few times, Grans might be the best of the bunch outside of Brandt Clarke.
Kings Face a Tough Road Ahead
Sunday’s win against the Panthers was impressive, but the Kings still have a very tough few weeks to deal with. There isn’t a team in the league that could take these injuries and not feel the effects, and the Kings are no different. Having the best prospect pool in hockey will certainly help them, but they will still struggle. There are some options to explore at the deadline, but the Kings can’t get desperate. It should be an interesting end to the season, but I fully expect the Kings to remain in the playoff hunt.