Hockey is back! At least partially, as teams have begun playing their first preseason games. The Los Angeles Kings are no different, as they’re starting to kick it into full gear this week, getting ready for the regular season. In this installment of Kings News & Rumors, we’ll be looking at the Kings vs Kings game that recently took place, the start of preseason, and some cuts that the team has already made.
Kings vs. Kings
On Sunday, Sep. 26, Kings fans got the first look at the team in a game situation, as the team put together an intrasquad game at the Toyota Arena in Ontario. The game had more intensity than the scrimmages we saw during the first three days of training camp, but it was still a relaxed skate for the players, and was, realistically, more of a glorified scrimmage. Still, fans and players had fun, and that’s what matters most. Like the scrimmages in training camp, I don’t think we can take the lines we saw on the ice too seriously, but I think there were some interesting decisions from coach Todd McLellan.
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Mainly, Alex Iafallo and Phillip Danault still playing together, they have been together for every scrimmage played so far, and its clear coach McLellan is trying to establish chemistry between these two early — it seems inevitable that these two start the season together, now it’s about finding someone to put with them. Another interesting line combination was, Adrian Kempe and Gabe Vilardi on a line together, I thought these two looked great together when Vilardi was first called up in 2020, and I thought they looked strong together on Sunday. They compliment each other well and could form a nice line, given the right linemate. That player could be Lias Andersson, who looked good with them Sunday.
The game itself ended 1-0 in favor of Team Black after regulation, but team white won the shootout at the end. Samuel Fagemo, unsurprisingly, scored the only goal in the game, a nifty individual effort to beat Jonathan Quick. Fagemo continues to increase his stock this summer, as he’s proving to be one of LA’s best young players. Most of the hype goes to LA’s higher picks like Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte, but Fagemo has been as impressive, if not more so, recently, and will be pushing for an NHL spot soon. I still think he starts the season out in Ontario, but if he continues this stellar play in the American Hockey League, it won’t be long before he makes his NHL debut.
The Kings kick off their preseason schedule on Monday, Sep. 27, against the Arizona Coyotes, in Arizona. They will then take on the San Jose Sharks a day later on Sep. 28, before finishing the week off with two games against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday and Friday. The Thursday matchup will be played in Lake City Utah, as a return of the popular Frozen Fury exhibition game. These preseason games should give us a better sense of what coach McLellan wants to do with the lines for the upcoming season, we will likely see plenty of experimentation, and players fighting for their jobs. I’m particularly interested to see who plays best with the aforementioned Iafallo and Danault line, and what line Kempe and Vilardi find themselves on.
Another thing to keep your eyes on is which fringe players make the best case to stay on the roster. As I’ve mentioned, ad nauseam, over the last few weeks, there’s a serious battle going on for the last couple forward spots on the Kings roster, they currently have more players than spots, meaning a few players will be cut. I imagine all of these players will be given a fair chance at earning their spot, but they’ll need to seriously impress if they want to remain with the team. Similarly, there will be a group of prospects looking to force their way onto the opening night roster. The only player who I think has a real shot is Rasmus Kupari, simply because I see him as further along in his development, so I’ll be looking for him to impress as well.
Speaking of roster cuts, the first round of cuts has already taken place. Camp invitee’s Lorenzo Canonica, Brett Hyland, Logan Morrison, Tye McSorley, Cameron Supryka, Landon Kosior, and Dylan Robinson were all cut prior to the Kings vs. Kings game on Sunday. LA Kings insider John Hoven has reported that the next round of cuts will come Friday, after the Frozen Fury game on Thursday night.
The invitees were expected to be cut, but the round of cuts Friday should bring some more surprises and will give us a better idea of what the roster will look like on opening night. With player’s jobs on the line, look for the intensity to pick up during preseason, it should be a fun couple of games for Kings fans to watch.
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.