Kings Can Overcome Arvidsson & Lemieux Injuries with Internal Options

The Los Angeles Kings were handed some bad news on Wednesday, with it being revealed that forwards Brendan Lemieux and Viktor Arvidsson are considered week-to-week, alongside defensemen Mikey Anderson. After discussing the team’s options for replacing Anderson, now seems like a good time to discuss the options for replacing Lemieux and Arvidsson. As always, I’ll cover what the team is losing from injury and the options to replace them. There are plenty of players on the Ontario Reign who can step into the lineup, but the team might not have to explore these options.

What the Kings Are Losing

First and foremost, the Kings will not be able to replace either Lemieux or Arvidsson with a like-for-like replacement. In Lemieux, you have a player who brings physicality, sandpaper, and a slight goalscoring threat. His 108 hits and 86 penalty minutes lead Kings forwards in these categories by a wide margin. He is also on pace for 12 goals in just 68 games, a 14 goal pace across 82 games. He’s been a huge part of the team’s very effective fourth-line, and the Kings will have a hard time replacing the edge he brings to the lineup.

Brendan Lemieux Los Angeles Kings
Brendan Lemieux, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NHLI via Getty Images)

Even more difficult to replace will be Arvidsson, who has found his home on a line with Trevor Moore and Phillip Danault. One of the most dangerous players league-wide on the rush and the player with the highest shot volume in the league, replacing Arvidsson, who’s scoring at a 30-goal pace over 82 games, will be very difficult. So in Lemieux, the Kings have to replace their grittiest and toughest forward. Ideally, this player will also carry a similar goalscoring threat. In Arvidsson, they have to replace the team’s second-highest goalscorer and one of the most dangerous rush players in the league.

Change Nothing

Not an exciting option, but a viable one nonetheless: keeping the 12 players in the lineup that beat the Boston Bruins on Monday would make sense. Coach Todd McLellan has shown a tendency to stick with winning lineups in the past, so utilizing those 12 would fit in line with this. Here’s how the team lined up on Wednesday.

The fourth line featured Carl Grundstrom and Lias Andersson rotating into drills with Blake Lizotte and Jaret Anderson-Dolan. If McLellan sticks with the lineup we saw against Boston, Andreas Athanasiou will replace Arvidsson, and Grundstrom will replace Lemieux.

Andreas Athanasiou LA Kings
Andreas Athanasiou, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images),

Athanasiou is a smart replacement for Arvidsson, as they share several qualities. He has a ton of speed, is a high-volume shooter, and scores at a solid clip. If he’s playing well, he can deliver a lot of the same things Arvidsson can. Unfortunately, it’s been hard to rely on Athanasiou to play well consistently. He’s looked great in the last two games, but it feels like it’s only a matter of time before another slump comes. The other issue with Athanasiou is that when he isn’t scoring goals, he doesn’t bring much to the table. He’s not great defensively, not an effective forechecker, and doesn’t create many chances for his teammates. The Kings have to ride him while he’s hot, but I question the sustainability of his play.

Related: Kings’ Anderson Injury Will Lead to Blue Line Shuffling

Grundstrom feels like a great fit to replace Lemieux, and I was extremely impressed by his performance against the Bruins. He doesn’t have the same agitator or fighting qualities as Lemieux, but he’s as physical, averaging a similar number of hits per game, and brings a similar goalscoring element. Currently on pace for 12 goals as well, in fewer games, Grundstrom is a better pure shooter than Lemieux but lacks a similar net-front presence. Grundstrom really stepped up on Monday and played his role well. According to Kings insider John Hoven, Andersson will replace Grundstrom Thursday night, as Andersson is rewarded for his excellent play with the Reign.

Options to Replace Arvidsson

Gabe Vilardi

This is the player I really want to see get a look to replace Arvidsson in the lineup. Of course, if Athanasiou continues to play well, this is a moot point. But if he goes into another slump, Vilardi should be the next guy up for this spot. It’s a perfect scenario for him. He was sent down to Ontario to regain his confidence and get top-six minutes on the wing and top unit power-play time. With Arvidsson going down, Vilardi now has the option to step into an elevated role in the NHL. He has done what was asked of him in Ontario; he’s a point-per-game player and has adapted well to the wing.

Gabriel Vilardi LA Kings
Gabriel Vilardi, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Not only would this give Vilardi the chance to play top-six minutes on the wing, but it would also allow him to get significant power-play time. He’s been incredible with the man advantage in Ontario, and the Kings need desperate help in this department. Playing with Danault, who seems to improve everyone he plays with, would also be an added benefit.

Of course, there’s the issue that he doesn’t play a similar game to Arvidsson at all. He’s not a rush player and doesn’t produce anywhere near the volume of shots Arvidsson does, but he’s still an offensive weapon. He’s an underrated shooter who clearly has an NHL shot, with his shooting percentage of 19.5% in the American Hockey League (AHL) being evidence of that, so he could do some damage on the second line.

The timeline for his return was said to be around the trade deadline, so calling him up in the next week or two would fall in line with this. The injury to Arvidsson was terrible, but a silver lining of the injury could be Vilardi getting his chance in an advantageous role. It isn’t yet make-or-break time for the former 11th overall pick, but we’re getting close to it, and this could be the chance he needs to really make it.

Samuel Fagemo

I’d be pretty surprised to see Samuel Fagemo get the chance to replace Arvidsson, but it would make a lot of sense. Stylistically, he is a similar player to Arvidsson; good on the rush and a high-volume shooter while possessing a better shot than Arvidsson. His 19 goals for Ontario place him third on the team and has him tied for third league-wide for players under 22 years old. He also has some NHL experience, playing four games in early January and getting some top-line minutes in that time. Like Vilardi, he’d also help the power play, possessing one of the best one-timers in the organization. Perhaps the best stylistic fit to replace Arvidsson, Fagemo is a nice fallback option for the team but should be behind Vilardi in the pecking order.

Replacements for Lemieux

Lias Andersson

Andersson could certainly feel he’s the next guy up after lighting the AHL on fire in his four-game conditioning stint, grabbing six goals, including two between the legs finishes.

It appears he’ll get his chance on Thursday, and he’ll need to play well to keep Grundstrom out of the lineup. He’s an interesting fit on the fourth line too. He brings nowhere near the physicality that Grundstrom and Lemieux bring, but he has his own set of skills. He brings a similar net-front presence as Lemieux, with silky hands in this area but less physicality to win battles. He’s an extremely effective forechecker and is very defensively responsible as well. He’ll bring a different element to this line, but could complement Lizotte and Anderson Dolan well. Andersson and Lizotte on the forecheck will be a nightmare, and Anderson-Dolan could benefit big time from their hard work.

Tyler Madden

Tyler Madden making his NHL debut in the next few weeks feels highly unlikely, but he has put together a solid season with the Reign, sitting sixth on the team in points. He has a lot of qualities that would make him an effective bottom-six player. Ask any scout about Madden, and you’re almost guaranteed to hear the same thing ad nauseam, “a fantastic motor. he never takes a shift off and is always going at full speed”. An entirely different player to Lemieux, Madden combines that motor with fantastic hands and a unique level of creativity. Again, I’d be surprised to see him get into a game, but the Kings have been good about rewarding solid play in Ontario, and Madden could be the next guy up.

Kings Have Plenty of Options

All season the Kings have displayed incredible organizational depth. Whether it was Sean Durzi coming in to replace Sean Walker or the laundry list of forwards who have been called up in a pinch, it’s clear that this team can survive an injury crisis. The team will once again have to utilize this depth after the recent injuries to Arvidsson and Lemieux, and I’m confident the team will continue to thrive. Hopefully, we get a chance to see Vilardi in a top-six role again, as he could be a big benefactor of Arvidsson’s injury.

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