The Los Angeles Kings’ training camp is now in full swing, with new and young players fighting for their roster spots, and established players readying themselves for another season. Yesterday I recapped some of the important storylines from day one, including line combinations, fringe players fighting for spots, and more. Day two brought a similar level of intensity, along with a few surprises. Young players are making claims for a roster spot, and Coach Todd McLellan is mixing up the line combinations, so there were plenty of interesting tidbits from day two.
The Kids Came to Play
A common theme throughout training camp is going to be the battle for the team’s last few forward spots. After day one we looked at the group of fringe players looking to retain or earn their spot on the roster. On day two, the kids came to play, specifically Rasmus Kupari and Samuel Fagemo. The two of them played alongside fellow prospect Tyler Madden during day two, who also impressed. Kupari and Fagemo stood out though, with both players carrying over the chemistry they developed at the end of last season.
Kupari’s skill was on full display during day two, as his puck carrying ability was nearly unmatched, even by established NHLers. During development camp, I noted that he looked to be full of confidence, and it seems like this has carried over into training camp. He doesn’t look like a young prospect hoping to earn his spot, but a player that knows he’s good enough to play at the highest level. If he can bring this confident play into preseason, it will be very hard for coach McLellan to justify sending him down to Ontario.
Fagemo was one of the team’s most impressive prospects during the Arizona Rookie Showcase that recently took place, and he has carried over that play into training camp. As ever, his shot is just incredible, and even when shooting on Cal Petersen and Jonathan Quick he was able to overpower them. His speed was evident today as well, keeping up with some of the team’s fastest skaters. I still think he will need another season, at least, to mature both physically and mentally, but with performances like we saw on day two, he’ll give coach McLellan something to think about when looking for young players to call up.
Athanasiou and Tkachev
Two of my main focuses on day one involved where newcomer Vladimir Tkachev and returner Andreas Athanasiou played. They were on opposite sides of the lineup during day one, with Tkachev lined up with the assumed second line, and Athanasiou grouped mainly with Ontario Reign players. On day two they were matched up together, alongside prospect Alex Turcotte.
The groupings were significantly changed from day one, so I wouldn’t read too much into where they were placed, but it is a good sign for Athanasiou that he was grouped with more NHLers on day two. Tkachev was impressive again, as his edge work, stickhandling, and vision stood out. He clearly has the talent to be a top-six forward for LA, but it remains to be seen if his overall play is good enough to remain effective in games.
As I just mentioned, we shouldn’t read too much into who players were lined up with on day two, but I don’t think it should be ignored entirely, especially when looking at a few players who stayed together after day one. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown were once again paired together, so I think it’s safe to assume that these two will start the season together. Another interesting pairing to stay together was Alex Iafallo and Phillip Danault, because it seems like the plan is to start the two of them together. Unlike yesterday, they were put with Adrian Kempe, instead of Tkachev. I like this line better, as Kempe plays a faster, more north-south than Tkachev, which compliments Iafallo and Danault better. To add to that, he can also act as a finisher for the line. A positional battle between Tkachev and Kempe might be taking place during camp, and is something to keep an eye on.
Byfield is Back
Another piece of good news from training camp is that Quinton Byfield is back on the ice. After leaving game three of the Arizona Rookie Faceoff Showcase, and missing day one of camp, he’s back on the ice and looking healthy.
Injuries have slightly stunted his summer, as he missed all of development camp in addition to a few days recently, so this is a good chance to get himself up to game speed. I still think he will start the season in Ontario, but there’s always the chance that a player like him forces their way onto the roster.
Impressive Fringe Players
On day one, I was interested to see which fringe players were most impressive during camp. Like day one, Martin Frk stood out, and after an unlucky 2020-21 season he’s clearly looking to force his way onto the Kings’ roster. He looks fast, physical, and hungry. I think it’s still unlikely he makes the opening night roster, but I don’t think there’s been a more impressive fringe player after two days. None of the other fringe players stood out to me, good or bad. I think the upcoming preseason games will tell us more about who makes the roster than anything, but it’s interesting to see who came into camp ready to fight for their spot.
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.