Kings Young Defensemen Will See Opportunity With MacDermid Loss

On Wednesday (July 21, 2021), the highly anticipated Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft took place. Seattle took a plethora of off-the-board picks that had the hockey world buzzing. One of such picks was their selection of Kurtis MacDermid from the Los Angeles Kings. Many Kings fans were delighted with the news, as it meant LA got to keep players such as Kale Clague, Carl Grundstrom and Brendan Lemieux while maintaining Andreas Athanasiou‘s RFA rights. Keeping these young players at the expense of a veteran, enforcer blueliner that many LA fans already wanted out of the lineup resulted in LA having a great night at the Expansion Draft, unlike some other teams.

Kurtis MacDermid Los Angeles Kings
Kurtis MacDermid, former Los Angeles King (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

MacDermid wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves, which will be missed. Otherwise, losing the physical edge he plays with (e.g., hitting) won’t be severely missed because the Kings already have numerous gritty players, including Grundstrom, Lemieux, Dustin Brown, Austin Wagner and Jaret Anderson-Dolan.

Dustin Brown Los Angeles Kings
Since hits began being tracked in 2005-06, no player has thrown more hits than Dustin Brown, who has racked up an astounding 3,544 hits. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Losing MacDermid will help clear up the Kings logjam among their left-handed defensemen and open up more opportunities for some of their young guns.

A Logjam of Left-Handed Defenders

In the 2020-21 season, LA had way too many left-handed blueliners in the lineup, including Mikey Anderson, Tobias Bjornfot, Clague, MacDermid, Olli Maatta and Christian Wolanin. Overall, that’s six left-handed defenders. The Kings’ situation on the right side was much less convoluted, as they only utilized five right-handed defensemen throughout the season, including Mark Alt’s two-game stint with the team. For the most part, the right side remained stable with the “big three” of Drew Doughty, Sean Walker, and Matt Roy (all of whom were protected in the Expansion Draft), while the left side was unstable with only Anderson playing in 50 or more games.

Mikey Anderson LA Kings
Mikey Anderson, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)

Heading into the 2021-22 season, LA will presumably boast a left side of Anderson, Bjornfot, Clague and Maatta. Also in the mix is Wolanin, a 26-year-old who primarily has played in the American Hockey League (AHL), who can provide solid defense for an NHL club when his services are necessary. This leaves Anderson, Bjornfot, Clague and Maatta as the left-handed blueliners who will bear the brunt of the work. Out of these four, only Maatta is older than 23 years of age; thus, LA has several ways to increase playing time for their young guns.

More Playing Time for Bjornfot & Clague

The likeliest option to replace MacDermid is to give 20-year-old Bjornfot and 23-year-old Clague increased opportunities. In 2020-21 here’s how they stacked up to MacDermid in terms of games played (GP) and time on ice (TOI).

MacDermid: 13:21 TOI, 28 GP

Clague: 17:12 TOI, 18 GP

Bjornfot: 16:50 TOI, 33 GP

Both Clague and Bjornfot averaged more time on ice per game than MacDermid. However, Clague played 10 fewer games than him. Hypothetically, let’s say LA wants a trio of Anderson, a veteran in Maatta, and either Bjornfot or Clague to be playing each game next season. If you take away MacDermid’s 28 games played and split them (14 each) among Bjornfot and Clague, that would help both players gain loads more experience. Furthermore, both of them averaged more TOI per game than Maatta, so another scenario could see him being the odd man out with the three young guns logging the heavy minutes and playing the majority of games.

Anderson Could See More Playing Time

One potential route LA could follow is increasing Anderson’s usage. The 22-year-old spent most of the season on the top pairing with Doughty. In this role, he boasted a TOI average of 21:10 minutes per game. This was tied for second-most on the Kings with veteran center Anze Kopitar. Obviously, Anderson wouldn’t be given tons of extra TOI, as he receives plenty of it already, however, the Kings could give him a few extra minutes. In the regular seasons preceding LA’s two Stanley Cup victories, they had Doughty munch the biggest minutes but would also have another defenseman that played over 22 minutes every game.

Season: 2011-12DoughtyWillie Mitchell
TOI 24:5322:13
2011-12 Table
Season: 2013-14Doughty Slava Voynov
TOI 25:4222:17
2013-14 Table

The Kings already view Anderson as a reliable, responsible defenseman. As evidence by previous seasons, they have given their number two blueliner larger minutes than Anderson received this year. Should LA not view any of the other three defensemen as reliable enough to log around 20 minutes per game, they could always give Anderson a few more minutes.

Overall, losing MacDermid in the Expansion Draft will help the Kings clear up their logjam on the left side and allow them to further develop their three promising, up-and-coming defenders in Anderson, Bjornfot, and Clague.

Statistics Per NHL

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