There’s no question that the Los Angeles Kings have been on a steady decline since their Stanley Cup victories in 2012 and 2014. Last season altogether really displayed an all-time low for general manager Rob Blake and the Kings.
However, with recent changes and new additions, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The franchise has a long way to get where they want to be, but the components listed below give fans a new hope for a better future.
3 — 2019 Draft Class
The Kings had a very successful draft class and gained dominant talent that may help the franchise sooner than later. Among the young superstars is 18-year-old center Alex Turcotte. The fifth-overall pick was sidelined during most of the 2018-19 season with the U.S. National U18 Team, but his presence on the ice still made an impact.
According to NHL scouts, Turcotte made a good first impression with his high tempo and versatility. He’s quick around the ice and always looks to drive to the net. Turcotte, who has been compared to the Chicago Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews, plays to compete and can be utilized in all three zones.
Tobias Björnfot, the team’s second draft selection, made an impression in the SuperElit with the Djurgårdens IF J20 team. Seen as an underrated defenseman, his skating and defensive awareness helped him claim J20 SuperElit’s Best Defenseman honor. Björnfot has a lot to prove but could positively influence on defense for the Kings.
Another strong pickup in the draft was one of the best goal-scorers in the Ontario Hockey League, Arthur Kaliyev. The right-winger went from registering 48 points in 2017-18 with the Hamilton Bulldogs to breaking out for 102 points last season. His hard slap-shots and sufficient passing makes him a complete asset on the ice, which is a good sign for the Kings and their fans.
However, according to NHL scouts, one of their top concerns and probably a reason why Kaliyev dropped lower than expected, was a lack of pace and competitiveness. It’s something Los Angeles may need to keep an eye on, but maybe competing in The Show will change his approach and mindset.
Left-winger Samuel Fagemo, who signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Kings on July 11, was exceptionally productive in the Sweden Hockey League. For Frölunda HC, Fagemo recorded 14 goals and 11 assists in 42 games, which helped in becoming a 2018-19 SHL Champion. He skates well and drives hard to the net but shows signs of irregularity. The skill set is there, but not at its full potential.
Lukas Parik, NHL Central Scouting’s No. 3 ranked European goaltender, was the team’s lone goalie selection. In 32 games played with the Bili Tygri Liberec U19 team, Parik had a 2.85 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. At 6-foot-4, Parik takes up a lot of the net and makes it hard for opponents to take shots-on-goal.
Defenseman Jordan Spence went under-the-radar in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League before the draft. He recorded 49 points, 43 of them being assists, in 68 games with the Moncton Wildcats. He was awarded QMJHL Defensive Rookie of the Year and Rookie of the Year.
At 5-foot-10, Spence is quick with his feet and able to relieve pressure throughout the course of the game. Although he’s shorter than the average defenseman, Spence’s speed and passing skills are above standard. He could shine with more experience.
These skilled players, alongside the other picks in defensemen Kim Nousiainen and Braden Doyle, and left-winger Andre Lee, will be valued. Although some players show flaws, they give the Kings organization promise. If they get the opportunity to play for the Kings, it’ll be worth tuning in to see.
2 — Veterans Due for Redemption
The 2018-19 campaign saw many players at their lowest, including team-captain Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick. A new season comes with a fresh start – and for the Kings, that’s exactly what they need.
Kopitar will remain in his captaincy role for the 2019-20 season, and with the way his career has played out, he’s due to bounce back. Two seasons ago, he recorded career-highs in goals, assists and points. After that came one of his worst offensive stat-line to date.
Kopitar did lead the team in multiple categories, but the numbers weren’t what he’s known for recording – he registered 32 points fewer than he did in the season prior. Kopitar still remains consistent with following up a bad season with a good one, so 2019-20 may be in his favor.
Another player looking to rebound is Quick. The star goalie also saw career-lows last season. He concluded the campaign with a 16-23-7 record – his first losing record since his debut in 2007. In addition to that, Quick’s .888 save percentage and 3.38 goals-against-average were also his lowest in over a decade.
Starting the season on the injured-reserve list with a lower-body injury didn’t help the two-time William M. Jennings recipient. With his backup Jack Campbell on the rise, it’ll be important for Quick to return to his normal self.
1 — Todd McLellan
Overall (11 years): 434-282-90, 958 points, .594 points-percentage
SJS (7 years): 311-163-66, 688 PTS, .637 PTS%
EDM (4 years): 123-119-24, 270 PTS, .508 PTS%
Todd McLellan, a veteran coach with an impressive NHL resume, was named the 29thhead coach in franchise history on Apr. 16. The transaction came almost immediately after the Kings concluded a disastrous season under John Stevens (4-8-1) and Willie Desjardins (27-34-8).
McLellan’s NHL coaching journey started with the San Jose Sharks in 2008. He led the South Bay team to six straight playoff appearances from 2009 to 2014, which included three-consecutive first place finishes in the Pacific Division. His final season in San Jose ended the franchise’s playoff-appearance streak at 11 years.
McLellan and the Sharks mutually agreed to part ways during the 2015 offseason, which then led him to becoming the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. Although he led Connor McDavid and the Oilers to the postseason in 2016-17, McLellan didn’t have the same success as he did in San Jose. The Oilers started the 2018-19 season 9-10-1, which ultimately got McLellan fired on Nov. 20.
McLellan was a favorite for the job and bringing him to Los Angeles was a smart move by the organization. With all of his experience and knowledge coming from the Western Conference, specifically in the Pacific, it may serve as an advantage for the Kings. All eyes will be on McLellan to turn the franchise around. Now heading into his 12thseason in the league, he has the capability to do just that.
Sara Biela is a Los Angeles Kings contributor for The Hockey Writers. Biela graduated from San Jose State University in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. She covered SJSU Athletics and the San Jose Sharks through the college’s student-run sports-media publication, The Spear.