As the Los Angeles Kings take a commanding 3-0 series lead over the St. Louis Blues into Game 4 on Sunday, many people are questioning, who are these guys? The Kings struggled to score in the regular season, barely locked up a playoff spot, and have taken the West by storm in the postseason as an 8 seed, already knocking off the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the first round. Whether anyone believed it or not during the regular season, it is now clear that General Manager Dean Lombardi and his predecessors have put together a team that can contend for the Stanley Cup. Here’s a look at how this roster fell into place.
Dustin Brown – Drafted in the 1st round of the 2003 draft (13th overall). The Kings captain has spent his whole career with the franchise, debuting the year he was drafted. Despite playing a very physical game, he has only missed 10 games since the lockout and is dependable for about 55 points per season. He plays on the powerplay and the penalty kill, and is easily the leader of this team. He is the playoff leader with 4 short-handed points currently.
Anze Kopitar – Drafted in the 1st round of the 2005 draft (11th overall). Kopitar is the offensive creative force that makes the Kings offense run. He has played in all 82 games in 4 out of the past 5 seasons, and has led the Kings in scoring each of the past 5 seasons, averaging around 75 points per season. He has 8 points in 8 games through the playoffs this year.
Jonathan Quick – Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2005 draft (72nd overall). Quick has backstopped the Kings for the majority of the past 4 years and has seen his numbers improve drastically every year. He was rewarded with a Vezina nomination for his regular season work and is certainly one of the front runners for the Conn Smythe if the Kings get to the finals. He has posted a .948 save percentage and 1.62 GAA in the playoffs this year.
Jonathan Bernier – Drafted in the 1st round of the 2006 draft (11th overall). Bernier has given the Kings a luxury that may one day turn him into a trade asset. As Jonathan Quick’s backup for the past 2 seasons, there had been rumors that Bernier would gain playing time and may supplant Quick as the #1 goalie. However, with Quick’s rise towards a Vezina nomination, Bernier gives the Kings a backup with #1 goalie potential. He has not played yet in the playoffs.
Trevor Lewis – Drafted in the 1st round of the 2006 draft (17th overall). Lewis may not have reached his 1st round potential, but he has found a niche role on this team on the third line over the past 2 seasons. He has yet to show much scoring prowess at the NHL level, but won’t make many mistakes either. He has a goal and an assist in the playoffs so far.
Alec Martinez – Drafted in the 4th round of the 2007 draft (95th overall). Martinez has developed into reliable defensive defenseman with flashes of offensive prowess from time to time. He doesn’t play big minutes, but he offers a strong shift while the Top 4 defensemen rest on the bench. He has one assist and is a +1 in the playoffs this year.
Dwight King – Drafted in the 4th round of the 2007 draft (109th overall). King has very little experience in the NHL thus far, appearing in 33 regular season games. He did manage to score 14 points in 27 games this season though. He has quickly made his mark in this Blues series by 1) Boarding Alex Pietrangelo, which knocked the Blues defenseman out for the end of Game 1 and all of Game 2 and 2) scoring a key go-ahead goal in Game 3 just 40 seconds after the Blues had tied the game.
Drew Doughty – Drafted in the 1st round of the 2008 draft (2nd overall). Doughty joined the team with very high expectations as a rookie and has proven himself as a solid two way defenseman with Norris Trophy potential. He was off to a slow start at the beginning of this season, which can likely be attributed to a training camp holdout, but appears to be hitting his stride in the playoffs now with 1 goal, 4 assists, and a +5 rating.
Slava Voynov – Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft (32nd overall). Voynov’s quick development allowed for the Kings to trade away a defenseman (Jack Johnson) to give the rookie a full time spot. He played in 54 games this season and produced 20 points with a +12 rating. He has shown improvement in every game with the Kings and has played beyond his age in the playoffs this year. He has one goal and a +2 in 8 games thus far.
Andrei Loktionov – Drafted in the 5th round of the 2008 draft (123rd overall). Loktionov hasn’t played much in the NHL yet, appearing in just 59 NHL games over the past 3 seasons as he has bounced between LA and their minor league affiliate. He has played very little in 2 playoff games this year.
Kyle Clifford – Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft (35th overall). Clifford is a big body that is used mostly in a checking and grinding role. He does not shy away from dropping the gloves, and though he demonstrated a bit of a scoring touch in the OHL, he has shifted into a solid tough guy role for the Kings. He has only played 1 game in the playoffs this year after suffering a concussion in the first round.
Jordan Nolan – Drafted in the 7th round of the 2009 draft (186th overall). Nolan made his NHL debut this year, appearing in 26 games and recording 4 points. In the playoffs, he has appeared in all 8 games and exclusively on the 4th line, adding speed to the grittiness of the 4th line.
Rob Scuderi – Signed as a free agent on 7/2/09. Scuderi brought with him the knowledge of a long playoff grind and how to win a Stanley Cup as he signed with the Kings less than a month after raising the Cup with Pittsburgh. He has provided great defensive reliability as Drew Doughty’s defensive partner, allowing Doughty to roam the ice as he wishes. He has one assist and is a +4 through 8 playoff games this year.
Willie Mitchell – Signed as a free agent on8/25/10. Mitchell brought playoff experience to a young team after his time with the Canucks before signing with LA. He also has experience in defense-oriented systems from playing with New Jersey and Minnesota. As one of the few truly seasoned veterans on the team, Mitchell brings a certain calmness with or without the puck in any scenario for the Kings. He has a goal and an assist in the playoffs so far and has been a very strong +5.
Brad Richardson – Acquired from Colorado on 6/21/08 for a 2nd round pick in 2008. The Kings gave up a surprisingly high price to get Richardson, who has turned into an energy player for the 4th line this year. He has been quite useful in the playoffs, grinding down opposing defenses and drawing penalties. He has 1 goal in 5 games so far in the playoffs.
Matt Greene – Acquired from Edmonton on 6/29/08 with Jarret Stoll for Lubomir Visnovsky. Greene has provided the Kings with a big, stay at home defenseman over the past four years. At 6’4, 234 lbs, Greene provides quite an impediment to any forwards trying to get to the crease. All of a sudden, he has found a small offensive burst for the Kings, as he has points in 3 straight games against the Blues in this series. As he might tell you though, it’s probably an accident.
Jarret Stoll – Acquired from Edmonton on 6/29/08 with Matt Greene for Lubomir Visnovsky. Stoll has been a defensive oriented center for LA and a machine in the faceoff circle. His offensive production dropped off greatly this year after he was bumped off the 2nd line with the acquisition of Mike Richards. Though he only had 21 points in 78 games, he has scored 2 key goals in the playoffs, including an overtime winner against Vancouver.
Justin Williams – Acquired from Carolina on 3/4/09 for Patrick O’Sullivan and a 2nd round pick in 2009. Williams showed flashes of great scoring potential coming out of the lockout with the Hurricanes before having several seasons plagued by injury issues, including his first 2 with the Kings. He has remained healthy and scored 22 goals each of the past 2 seasons though. Williams has brought that scoring touch into the playoffs after a slow start against Vancouver, now producing 7 points in 8 games.
Dustin Penner – Acquired from Edmonton on 2/28/11 for Colten Teubert, a first round pick in 2011, and a conditional 3rd round pick in 2012. Penner has been a target for ample amounts of criticism over the past year as he didn’t meet expectations during last year’s playoff run and then only scored 17 points in 65 games this year. He seems to have put it all behind him in the playoffs this year though, contributing 6 points in 8 games so far and looking downright dominating at times. Penner is playing his best hockey for the Kings at the perfect time in this year’s playoffs. He is also enjoying himself with the fans finally.
Mike Richards – Acquired from Philadelphia on 6/23/11 for Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, and a 2nd round pick in 2012. The Kings acquired a true 2nd line center and another strong leader in Richards when Philadelphia decided to undergo a major shakeup. Richards had one of his slower regular seasons, only producing 44 points in 74 games, but his playoff intelligence has come to the forefront over the past 3 weeks. Richards has 8 points in 8 games and has demonstrated a strong ability to agitate opponents while leading the team by actions on the ice.
Colin Fraser – Acquired from Edmonton on 6/26/11 with a 7th round pick for Ryan Smyth. The Kings were basically forced to trade Ryan Smyth, who was unhappy in LA and desperate to go back to Edmonton. They finally pulled the trigger and received Fraser in return, who had some injury issues at the end of last season and during the offseason. Despite some injury and trade drama through the offseason, Fraser played in 67 games this season, plugging in as a solid 4th line checker. He has played in all 8 playoff games and been on the ice for many drawn penalties due to a very strong forecheck.
Jeff Carter – Acquired from Columbus on 2/23/12 for Jack Johnson and a conditional 1st round pick. Carter is the most recent of the Kings’ acquisitions and was expected to bring a scorer’s touch to the 29th ranked offense in the league. In the 61 games prior to his acquisition, the Kings scored 4+ goals only 13 times. Since that trade, the Kings have played 29 games and managed that feat an additional 14 times. Time will tell, but the hockey world may look at back at this trade and say it was the final piece of the puzzle for the Kings.