The Los Angeles Kings are a fun team to watch. Last night, no fewer than eight Kings players made their playoff debuts in what became an emotional road victory over the heavily favored Edmonton Oilers. However, if the team is looking to go deep in the playoffs, some of their youngest players will need to step up and show that they are ready to compete. Here are three rookies who can take their game to the next level as the 2022 Playoffs progress.
Durzi has certainly been a surprise this season. While it was predicted that he would make his NHL debut in the regular season, no one was expecting the rookie blueliner to become a regular in the lineup. In an injury-riddled regular season, he stepped up and his play was key to the Kings clinching their spot. Nevertheless, there were certainly some mistakes that need to be cleaned up for the playoffs.
As an offensively-minded defenseman, Durzi is always looking for opportunities to create scoring chances. While this has been great, especially given that the Kings have been historically starved for goals, there is still some room for improvement on the back end. Sometimes in an effort to make a play, he causes turnovers that lead to odd-man rushes going the other way.
If Durzi were able to tighten up his defensive game, it could be hugely beneficial to a Kings team that is playing without franchise defenseman Drew Doughty. As a rookie, it is impressive that he is already playing such key minuets in the playoffs, but he still has a great opportunity to take his game to the next level.
It is understood that Quinton Byfield is the future of the Kings. At just 19 years old, he is one of the youngest Kings to ever make his playoff debut. In 40 games this regular season, he had five goals and five assists for 10 total points. These numbers are completely reasonable for such a young player, but playoff hockey comes with higher expectations.
Byfield has shown flashes of offensive brilliance throughout the season. It is clear that he is going to be great, but he is still inconsistent. If he were able to play at or near his best night after night, he would immediately become an absolute force on this Kings team.
There is also one defensive area that Byfield could work on during these playoffs. He is a bit hesitant to use his large frame to his advantage. He is one of the biggest players on the ice and if he had the confidence to get in the way and knock opposing players off the puck, he could simultaneously contribute more on the back end and create new offensive opportunities for a team that is looking to score more goals.
Arthur Kaliyev, like Byfield, has shown flashes of brilliance. Over the course of his rookie season, it is clear that he has developed a lot. He has vastly improved on the forecheck and is always willing to make a play. This earned him respectable offensive numbers during his rookie year: 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points.
Six of Kaliyev’s goals came on the man advantage, the Kings’ single greatest weak spot of the season. This is where he can make his impact. He has an absolutely wicked shot and is known as a power-play specialist. The team needs to do everything in their power to find him on the man advantage and he just needs to do what he does best: shoot the puck. Improving on the power play would certainly bring the team’s offense to the next level.
A Young Kings Team
With an average age of 26.37 years old, the Kings are the youngest team in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. While the Kings are certainly the underdog of the first round, these kids may just prove that they are ready to step up and win some games. Even if they are not quite ready to make a run this year, they are gaining valuable experience that they will use for years to come.
As a native Angeleno, Katie Nash is a life-long Kings fan and experienced amateur hockey journalist. She is excited to provide her perspective through covering the Kings for The Hockey Writers.
Follow her on instagram @la.kings.hockey.