The Los Angeles Kings will open training camp Sept. 12 but not without a few lingering questions.
Which prospects, if any, can make the jump to the NHL? And how will Ben Scrivens and Matt Frattin fit in?
These are just a couple of the storylines surrounding a team which is expected to contend for the Stanley Cup. That said, the Kings need to get off to a better start in the regular season to put themselves in a good position come playoff time.
It all starts in training camp Thursday at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, where Darryl Sutter and company will look to establish a strong work ethic from the get go.
Here are a few of the top storylines for L.A.'s 2013-14 training camp.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.
Jonathan Bernier was the Kings one major loss this offseason. But, in trading the young netminder, they gained a solid forward in Matt Frattin and a proven backup goalie in Ben Scrivens.
Both players worked well under the microscope in Toronto, so making the transition to a city where hockey takes a backseat in the sports world shouldn't be hard.
But where will they fit in?
Frattin has good speed, a strong shot and continues to work on the physical aspect of his game. With solid two-way play, the 6'0", 200-pound right-winger has the potential to be a top-six forward. However, with Tyler Toffoli likely suiting up alongside Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, Frattin may be best used on Jarret Stoll's line.
It will be interesting to see who he works well with in training camp and if he develops chemistry with a specific center.
Scrivens made 20 appearances for the Maple Leafs last season, recording a .915 save percentage, 2.69 goals-against average and two shutouts. With Jonathan Quick firmly cemented as the team's starter, the only question is whether another goalie in L.A.'s system could steal Scrivens' job.
That is highly unlikely.
Neither Martin Jones (recently signed a two-year deal) or Jean-Francois Berube appear ready to make the jump to the NHL.
The Kings received a bit of a scare early in the offseason.
Jarret Stoll suffered a seizure on July 3 at his home in Hermosa Beach. While the details surrounding the seizure have not been made public, Stoll says he's all set to go for training camp, according to NHL.com.
I'm just moving on looking forward to the start of the season. Medically cleared, all those things, had great doctors take care of me in terms of getting ready for camp and being cleared for play. So that's all taken care of.
Stoll has also suffered two concussions in his career, the most recent of which came in last year's semi-final series versus the San Jose Sharks. Stoll sustained the concussion in Game 1 on a hit from Raffi Torres and didn't return until Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks. His previous concussion came during the 2006-07 season.
Usually the team's third-line center, the 31-year-old Stoll is one of the main reasons L.A. can role out three lines in almost any situation.
With the seizure clearly behind him, his health shouldn't be an issue at camp or heading into the season. But he and the team will obviously need to be extra cautious when it comes to dealing with possible concussions down the road.
The Kings were without Mitchell for all of last season because of a knee injury. He underwent surgery in December and again in early April. At that time it seemed possible the 36-year-old could be out for the 2013-14 season as well.
Fortunately, that's changed.
Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times reports that Mitchell expects to be ready for training camp.
Players are scheduled to report to the team’s El Segundo practice facility for physicals on Wednesday and take to the ice on Thursday. Mitchell said that the physical exam will be his final hurdle but that he expects to be cleared to return to the ice and plans to play without a brace.
Now the question is: How effective can Mitchell be throughout the season?
Given his age, prior injuries and the fact that the Kings are deep on defense, Mitchell may see limited action early on in the season. However, if he stays healthy and hasn't lost a step, he should be back to playing his normal minutes by midseason at the latest.
Mitchell is a smart, physical blueliner, especially in his own end. He's also a great penalty killer and could make a huge difference down the stretch as the Kings fight for a division title.
The Kings have one of the deepest rosters in the entire NHL.
Instead of having a superstar or two up front, the team is filled with dynamic forwards who can generate offense, play physical and defend. In fact, the Kings have three solid lines which can do all of these things. On the blue line they have a mix of offensively gifted players and strong, stay-at-home defensemen.
That doesn't leave much room for prospects to make the team.
Tanner Pearson and Linden Vey have the best shot without question, while L.A.'s top pick in 2013, Valentin Zykov should have an opportunity in the coming years.
Both Pearson and Vey looked good in a recent prospects game against the Anaheim Ducks. Pearson netted two goals, helping the Kings to a 6-1 victory.
Expect their strong performances to extend into training camp. Vey, while undersized, is quick, has a good shot and great playmaking skills. Pearson has great speed, hockey sense and has developed into a solid two-way player.
And yet, these two young, talented forwards will likely spend most, if not all of the season in Manchester. That's just how strong L.A.'s roster is right now.
Along with Matt Frattin, Daniel Carcillo is also a new addition up front for the Kings.
As previously mentioned, Frattin could end up playing on the third line alongside Jarret Stoll. Where Carcillo fits in is far less certain.
Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan, Trevor Lewis, Dwight King and Colin Fraser are also looking to take a spot in the bottom six. It may not be the most exciting part of a team's lineup, but heading into training camp the bottom six may be one of the most intriguing storylines for the Kings.
Lewis has the speed and defensive abilities to play on the third line. He averaged over 15 minutes in ice time per game last season, far more than Clifford, Fraser or Nolan. That trend should continue this season.
The fourth line will likely evolve throughout the season. Clifford has moved up and down the lineup in the past, while Fraser is usually a lock on the fourth unit.