The Los Angeles Kings were the worst team in the Western Conference and second-worst team in the NHL in 2019 and 2020 will likely be much of the same.
Los Angeles did not do much to improve their active roster this offseason but they have one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL. Kings’ fans may not get a chance to see any of their top prospects this season, but their future is bright.
Rasmus Kupari (No.20 pick in 2018), Gabe Vilardi (No.11 pick in 2017), Mikey Anderson (No.103 pick in 2017) and Akil Thomas (No.51 pick in 2018) were among the TSN Top-50 prospects in the spring and this summer they added Alex Turcotte (No. 5 pick), Tobias Bjornfot (No.22 pick) and Arthur Kaliyev (No.33 pick) to the pool.
With a riches of forward and D-prospects, the Kings can get back to being competitive over the next few seasons, but 2020 could be a painful one for GM Rob Blake and new head coach Todd McLellan.
The Kings forward group is led by veteran forwards but have some low-ceiling younger players around them. Carl Grundstrom was acquired in the Jake Muzzin trade last season and is one of the few active forwards worth getting excited about. The 21-year-old had 39 points (16G / 23A) in 55 AHL games last year and posted five goals and one assist in 15 games with the Kings. The former second-round pick should be heavily featured in the top-6 this year, next to third-year centre Adrian Kempe. The 22-year-old pivot has posted 37 and 28 points in the last two seasons and doesn’t appear to have a lot of upside despite a potentially big workload in 2020.
Anze Kopitar (C)
- — Kopitar continues to play well in his mid-30’s but his surrounding cast limits his upside. He had a career-high 92 points in 2018 but took some obvious steps back last year. Kopitar plays massive minutes atop the Kings lineup, which gives him ample opportunity to produce, but he is more of a No.3 fantasy centre in 2020.
Dustin Brown (RW)
- — Brown was a consistent source of goals, assists, and hits from 2008-to-2012 but then went into a five-year lull afterward. He was able to rejuvenate his career in 2018 and has averaged 25 goals, 31 assists and 170 hits while playing 20-plus minutes per game over the last two years. His upside is capped, but he boasts healthy shot volume and gets a boost in “banger” leagues. Helping Brown’s fantasy value stay afloat is his usage with Kopitar—the 34-year-old has played 88.4 percent of his 5v5 ice-time next to the Kings captain over the last two seasons.
Tyler Toffoli (RW)
- — Toffoli seemed to be on track to be a consistent 30-goal, 60-point threat but his career has taken a downturn over the last three years. Following a career-year in 2016, Toffoli has averaged just 19 goals and 22 assists (43 points) per 82-games in the last three seasons. A plummeting shooting percentage is responsible for the huge decrease in goals, so there’s a chance he bounces back a bit in 2020. He has very little competition for ice-time so the 27-year-old should be able to turn top-6 minutes into a 25-25 season.
Jeff Carter (C)
- — Carter missed 55 games in 2018 and had the worst season of his career in 2019. Can he bounce back? I think there’s a chance that the 34-year-old can get back to fantasy relevance in 2020, but like the rest of his teammates, his upside is limited. Carter has shot 11.4 percent throughout his career but shot just 7.5 percent a year ago and his on-ice SH% plummeted to 7.0. Both of those rates should see positive regression this year, but he remains a waiver-wire candidate in standard leagues.
Ilya Kovalchuk (LW/RW)
- — Kovalchuk made his much-anticipated return to the NHL last year but played terribly. The 36-year-old had the second-worst CF% (45.0) and third-worst SCF% (44.12) despite ranking third among Kings forwards in Off. Zone Start% (56.2). This ultimately led to a decreased role at 5v5 and Kovalchuk became one of the biggest busts in fantasy hockey. Kovalchuk is basically a power-play specialist at this point in his career, making him a DFS punt-play but a free agent in season-long leagues.
Nikolai Prokhorkin (C)
- — Los Angeles dipped into the KHL pool again this offseason. Prokhorkin was a fourth-round pick in 2012 but has spent the last seven years in Russia. Prokhorkin finished fourth on St. Petersburg SKA in points last year, posting 20 goals and 21 assists (41 points) in 41 games—trailing only Nikita Gusev, Alexander Barbanov, and Pavel Datsyuk. If he transitions quickly, Prokhorkin could end up on the Kings’ second-line and could create some fantasy value that doesn’t exist right now.
The Kings blueline is experiencing some turnover in 2020, and they enter training camp with a gaggle of defensemen fighting for the final four spots. Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, and Alec Martinez are locks for the first three spots but the rest is up for grabs. Joakim Ryan, Sean Walker, Paul LaDue, Matt Roy, Kale Clague, Kurtis MacDermid, and Anderson looking to be their No.4 through No.7 blueliners.
Drew Doughty (D)
- — Doughty has not missed a game in five years and is tied for 11th among defensemen in points (246) over that span. The 29-year-old has been a consistent source of 10 goals and 50 points in recent years and should be a solid No.2 fantasy defenseman even with the Kings’ offensive deficiencies. His durability and consistency make him a strong eighth/ninth-round pick on draft day.
Alec Martinez (D)
- — Martinez is next in the pecking order for PP time after Doughty, but his spot on PP2 doesn’t carry a lot of value. He has missed 27 games over the last two years and is tied for 85th among defensemen in points (43) over that stretch. Unless you’re in the deepest fantasy league ever, Martinez should not be drafted in 2020.
Jonathan Quick and Jack Campbell return to the Kings’ crease for 2020 after combining for the eighth-worst SV% (.900) in the NHL last year. A lot of that can be blamed on Quick though, Campbell actually played extremely well.
Jonathan Quick (G)
- — Quick posted a career-worst 3.38 GAA and .888 SV% in his 46 starts in 2019. At age-33, Quick’s career is trending in the wrong direction and the lack of talent in front of him destroys his chances at a big bounce-back in 2020. Quick was a high-end No.1 fantasy netminder for nearly a decade, but he enters his 12th season as a No.2 fantasy option.
Jack Campbell (G)
- — Campbell could eat into Quick’s projected workload in 2020 if he plays as well as he did in 2019. Campbell finished the campaign ranked third in SV% (.928) and fifth in GAA (2.30). It seems improbable that Campbell will re-create this numbers this season, but he will be a solid spot-start option and a No.2 fantasy netminder if Quick gets banged up.
Projected Scoring Leaders
|A. Kopitar (24)||A. Kopitar (46)||A. Kopitar (70)||D. Brown (8)||A. Kopitar (22)|
|T. Toffoli (24)||D. Doughty (38)||D. Brown (50)||J. Carter (7)||D. Doughty (21)|
|J. Carter (24)||D. Brown (30)||J. Carter (50)||D. Doughty (6)||J. Carter (16)|
Kings in the DFO Top 300
- 98 — Anze Kopitar (C)
- 108 — Drew Doughty (D)
- 135 — Jonathan Quick (G)
- 197 — Dustin Brown (RW)
- 230 — Tyler Toffoli (RW)
- 239 — Jeff Carter (C)
- 251 — Ilya Kovalchuk (LW/RW)
- 284 — Alec Martinez (D)
|2||CALGARY FLAMES||44-29-9||97 PTS|
|4||ARIZONA COYOTES||39-32-11||89 PTS|
|5||EDMONTON OILERS||39-34-9||87 PTS|
|7||ANAHEIM DUCKS||36-36-10||82 PTS|
|8||LOS ANGELES KINGS||33-42-7||73 PTS|
The Kings are basically mailing it in in 2020. They didn’t do anything to improve their roster and their core is one-year older. They will almost certainly finish the season as the worst team in the Pacific Division but will get a chance to add another top-5 pick to an already impressive group of budding prospects.