In this edition of Los Angeles Kings News & Rumors, I’ll be discussing Adrian Kempe being selected to his first All-Star Game, his being added to the COVID protocol list, the Kings now sitting second in the Pacific Division, Aisha Visram becoming the first female to serve on an NHL bench, and Trevor Moore‘s red hot play.
Kempe an All-Star & in COVID Protocol
Just before last Thursday’s faceoff against the Pittsburg Penguins, it was announced that Kempe was selected for his first career NHL All-Star game. The 25-year-old is having a breakout 2021-22 season, already surpassing his previous career-high in goals with 17 so far this season. That total is good enough to lead the Kings and put him on pace for roughly 36 goals. If he can break the 30-goal mark, it will be the first time a Kings player has done it since Anze Kopitar posted 35-goals in the 2017-18 season. Consistency has been key for Kempe this season, no longer suffering from the massive dry spells that plagued him earlier in his career. He’s been one of the team’s best players this season and is more than worthy of his All-Star selection.
Unfortunately, the good news didn’t last long for Kempe, as he was placed in COVID protocol Sunday. He will certainly miss Monday’s game against the San Jose Sharks and Tuesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, two big games for the Kings. At the time of writing, there has been no word on who will replace Kempe on the top line. The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman reported that Samuel Fagemo replaced Kempe at practice Sunday and that Fagemo or Dustin Brown are the two most likely candidates to slot in. While Kings’ insider John Hoven reported he thinks Andreas Athanasiou or Arthur Kaliyev will be Kempe’s replacement. Regardless, his shoes will be tough to fill, as he’s been the team’s most prolific goal scorer this season.
Kings Now Second in the Pacific Division
Following their 3-1 victory over the Seattle Kraken on Saturday night, the Kings improved to 20-13-5 on the season, which saw them move into second place in the Pacific Division. They are currently tied on points with the Anaheim Ducks with three games in hand, and three points behind the Vegas Golden Knights, with one game in hand. With COVID affecting the schedule, points percentage is often seen as the best way to determine the “true” standings, and the Kings show up well in that statistic as well. In points percentage, they’re still second in the division, just ahead of the Calgary Flames, and just behind the Golden Knights.
The goal heading into this season was a postseason return, and the Kings are currently on pace to make that happen with ease. Of course, there is plenty of hockey still to be played, but this team has only improved as the season has gone on, so I wouldn’t be too worried about a massive collapse at this point. It will be interesting to see how General Manager Rob Blake navigates the trade deadline, and how committed he is to the playoffs this season. It’s unlikely this is the season he loads up for a cup run at the deadline, but it’s still very possible he is a buyer in late March.
Aisha Visram Makes History
Kempe being names and All-Star would turn out to be just the second biggest piece of Kings news last Thursday, as Ontario Reign athletic trainer Visram was called up to serve on the King’s bench as the head Athletic Trainer. The team’s head athletic trainer Chris Kingsley was out due to COVID, causing Visram to be called up. This marked the first time a woman worked behind the bench in King’s history and just the second woman in NHL history to serve behind the bench in an NHL game. This was an incredible accomplishment for Visram and a win for progress within hockey. The league still has a long way to go, but the trailblazing efforts of Visram and Jodi van Rees, the first woman to serve behind an NHL bench, is a sign of the league moving in the right direction.
Red Hot Trevor Moore
No one on the Kings is riding a hot streak like Moore right now. He has 12 points in his last 10 games and seven in his last five. He was initially moved onto the second line to replace Alex Iafallo who was out in COVID protocol but has retained his spot, even with Iafallo back. Iafallo was moved to the first line and Brown was moved to the third so that Moore could keep his spot. This is the best run of ten games Moore has in his career so far, and with Kempe out, they’ll need Moore and his line to continue this incredible play.
After a slow start to the season offensively, he has picked up his play and is now on pace for a career-high 38-points. Moore showed off his versatility last season, playing up and down the lineup throughout, and is doing so once again this season. His ability to play in any role was a big reason the Kings locked him down to a two-year contract, with an average annual value of $1.875 million. His ability to plug into the top six has come as no surprise to coach Todd McLellan though.
Moore seems to be McLellan’s Swiss Army knife; someone he can trust in all situations. Right now, his $1.875 million cap hit seems like a steal. Of course, this level of production from him is unsustainable, but sometimes you have to ride the hot hand and until someone plays well enough to take his spot, Moore should remain where he is at.
Up Next For the Kings
The Kings will face off against the Sharks on Monday afternoon, before returning home for a difficult two-game homestand against the Lightning and Colorado Avalanche. They will then go on an eight-game road trip, heading out east for six of those eight games. The Kings are one of the hottest teams in hockey, but it will be difficult to keep that run going over the next few weeks.
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.