How the mighty have fallen. The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014 but have missed the playoffs in two of the last three seasons.
Their 2016-17 season was derailed early-on when goaltender Jonathan Quick went down with a groin injury in the first game of the season. This injury led to the Kings leaning on Peter Budaj and Jeff Zatkoff and the duo combined for a .912 SV% in 59 games.
Upon his return, Quick was splitting the crease with Ben Bishop—who’s rights were traded to the Dallas Stars last spring—and Quick went 8-5-2 with a 2.24 GAA and .916 SV% in 16 starts. The Kings are no longer the Western Conference powerhouse they once were, but they played a sound defensive game under Darryl Sutter, which made Quick a safe fantasy option. With John Stevens now behind the bench, it remains to be seen how it will affect the Kings play.
“John and I had very productive dialogue this last week in relation to his head coaching philosophy and specifically how he would implement a strategy to activate our players offensively while maintaining the defensive philosophies we have come to be known for.” – Kings’ GM Rob Blake
Barring injury, Quick is in line for 65-plus starts, which he should easily turn into around 30 wins with a GAA around 2.30 and SV% near .920.
During the offseason, the Kings didn’t do much to improve their roster. On the blueline, they replaced Brayden McNabb, who they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights, with Christian Folin, who only cracked the Minnesota Wild’s lineup for 51 games a season ago. Their D-corps continues to be led by the trio of Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez. Doughty is widely considered one of the best two-way defenseman in the NHL, but has actually elevated his offensive game in recent years. Doughty is tied for 11th among defensemen in points (141) over the last three seasons and is a low-end No.1/high-end No.2 fantasy defenseman in 2017-18. Muzzin played regularly with Doughty in the two season prior to 2016-17, but moved to the second-pairing last season and failed to top 30 points. Muzzin still managed to record nine goals, which give him 27 over the last three years—tied for 24th among blueliners. Martinez was a late bloomer and the Kings have asked more of him with each passing season. Last year he played a career-high 21:38 TOI/GM and posted a career-best 30 assists and 39 points. Over the last four years he has averaged 11 goals and 23 assists per 82 games, so you can lean on him as a low-end No.3/high-end No.4 fantasy defenseman.
Up front, the Kings also return many of last season’s group, with their only notable offseason acquisition being Michael Cammalleri. The veteran winger is skating with Anze Kopitar early in training camp, which bodes well for him coming into 2017-18, but durability has become a huge issue for the 35-year-old. During his three years in New Jersey, Cammalleri has averaged 25 goals and 29 assists (54 points) per 82 games, but has missed a total 75 games over that span. Kopitar is coming off of the worst season of his career, having scored just 12 goals thanks to a career-low 8.0 shooting percentage. However, the 30-year-old managed to record at least 40 assists for the seventh consecutive (full 82-game) season. Look for Kopitar to improve that goal total with 40-plus assists yet again.
Outside of those two veterans, the Kings’ line of Tanner Pearson–Jeff Carter–Tyler Toffoli are the only forwards who should be leaned on for fantasy production. In his first three and a half seasons, Pearson has seen his usage and production improve in each season. The 25-year-old fired 187 shots and turned it into 24 goals last year and if he can continue to record 180-plus shots he can be a consistent 25-25 producer. Despite playing on a Kings team that ranks 22nd in the NHL in goals since 2012-13, Carter is 13th in the NHL in goals (137) and tied for 26th in points (273) over that span. Even if the Kings aren’t the best offensive team, the 32-year-old centre should have no problem getting near 30 goals with 30-plus assists for the fifth straight season. Lastly, Toffoli is coming off of a season in which he missed 19 games, but was on-pace for a career-high 214 shots. It would have been the third season in a row that the 25-year-old tope 200 shots, making him a candidate for a 25-25 season entering 2017-18.
The Kings will probably be in the top-10 in goals against but in the bottom 10 in goals for the second straight season and miss the playoffs for the third time in four years. Most of the Pacific Division is going in one direction while the Kings are going the other way.
Fantasy Rankings (Top 350)
- Jonathan Quick-#26 (#6 G)
- Anze Kopitar-#59 (#16 C)
- Drew Doughty-#70 (#15 D)
- Jeff Carter-#75 (#20 C)
- Tyler Toffoli-#128 (#25 RW)
- Tanner Pearson-#181 (#32 LW)
- Alec Martinez-#189 (#44 D)
- Jake Muzzin-#241 (#58 D)
- Michael Cammalleri-#309 (#60 RW)