Kings’ Young Forwards Showing up for Early Preseason

After a long summer, the offseason ended with the Arizona Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings playing back-to-back preseason games in two different California locations on Monday and Tuesday. The Kings won both games that featured a 3-on-3 overtime demonstration in the first game and needed the extra time to settle the second game.

In these last two games, the Kings have had five forwards with multi-point efforts. Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson each had three points in the first game in Bakersfield while Jordan Weal, Nick Shore and Brian O’Neill all have three points in the first two games.

Opening the Preseason with Two Wins

On Monday, the two teams opened up the preseason with an exhibition game in Bakersfield, California. While the Coyotes were technically the home team in this game, both teams traveled to the Rabobank Arena to kick-off the preseason. The game ended with the Kings winning by a score of 5-1.

Tyler Toffoli
Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Toffoli had two goals, Nick Shore had two goals and Pearson had three assists. Three Kings’ players all under the age of 24 had multiple point nights. Connor Murphy of the Coyotes was called for cross-checking giving the Kings a man advantage in the 3-on-3 overtime demonstration and Toffoli scored his third of the game with Weal getting an assist. Neither point counted as the overtime was merely a demonstration of the new overtime format.

Tuesday night saw similar results as the game went into overtime and showcased some of the same younger players in the Kings’ system that will be competing for roster spots come Oct. 7. The game was played at Staples Center in LA and it was the first game since April 11 of last year as the Kings beat the San Jose Sharks by a score of 4-1.

Arizona opened the scoring as No. 3 overall pick in the last draft Dylan Strome scored on a five-on-three power play. And even though veterans like Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Milan Lucic were playing on a line together, it was Kings players fighting for a spot that ultimately prevailed.

Weal had another big night tallying one assist and the game-winning goal in overtime. On the game-winning play, the Kings skated the 3-on-3 overtime with two forwards (Brian O’Neill and Weal) and Christian Ehrhoff before Weal tipped-in a wrist-shot from Ehrhoff passed Arizona goalie Niklas Treutle.

O’Neill finished the game with two points, Weal finished the game with two points including a game-winning goal and forward Michael Mersch scored in the first period of Tuesday’s game with Shore adding an assist on Mersch’s goal.

O’Neill is not technically not a young player at 27 years old, but the Yale graduate has had enough professional experience having played the last four years in Manchester with the Monarchs at the AHL level. O’Neill won the John B. Sollenberger trophy for the most points last year and was AHL’s most valuable player (Les Cunningham award).

A New Wave of Talented Kings Players

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Shore, Weal, O’Neill and Mersch all won a Calder Cup with the Monarchs last season and are all trying to prove their worth this year. Shore, Weal and O’Neill can all play the position of fourth line center with Weal and O’Neill being versatile enough to play the wing.

The regular season starts in less than two weeks and the Kings will play four more games including a game against the Colorado Avalanche at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for Frozen Fury XVII. The Kings’ next game is Friday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California against the Ducks and cuts have already been made as 11 players were sent back to juniors.

With the exception of 27-year-old O’Neill, all the players with multiple point games were under the age of 24 in the two games earlier this week. A younger wave of Kings players not named Brown, Doughty and Kopitar are trying to establish themselves as Kings’ roster players this preseason and have succeeded thus far in the early preseason.