Los Angeles Kings Awards for the 1st Half of the 2013-14 Season
After a bit of a slow start to the 2013-14 season, the Los Angeles Kings have been nearly unstoppable throughout November and December.
With 54 points (25-11-4) the Kings sit third in the Pacific Division and fifth in the tough Western Conference.
While the Kings have thrived because of strong team defense, there are a few individuals who deserve to be recognized for their efforts. These are the Kings' award winners for the first half of the season.
Some awards will go to players you would have expected heading into the season. Others may go to players who weren't even on the roster in October.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.
Most Improved Player: Dwight King
Dwight King has gone from being a bottom-six forward who played about 12 minutes per game, to a top-six forward who often suits up alongside Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter.
The 6'4", 230-pound left winger has already topped his previous season-highs for goals and points. King ranks fourth on the team with 10 goals and sixth with 18 points. He's also used his size to have a physical impact, especially on the forecheck. King has 58 hits on the season.
At 24-years-old, King has taken a big step forward, playing strong with and without the puck in all three zones. In situations where he would have given the puck away in previous seasons, he now plays it safe by passing or getting it deep.
If King can continue to get better, he could become a more valuable asset on the power play, specifically with his presence in front of the net and in the corners.
Most Underrated Player: Justin Williams
Justin Williams has been the least talked about member of the Kings' top line in recent years, as Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown have taken the spotlight.
This season, he and Dustin Brown have spent time on the second line with either Mike Richards or Jarret Stoll at center.
Williams continues to play strong in all three zones and produce consistently five-on-five and on the power play. It's his offensive contributions and amount of ice time which makes him the team's most underrated player.
The 32-year-old ranks third on the Kings with 25 points and fourth in ice time among forwards with an average of 17:30 minutes per game this season.
If Williams can maintain this level of play with his new linemates, it will give Darryl Sutter the luxury of leaving Jeff Carter on the top line with Kopitar and the ability to move players around on the third and fourth lines.
Best Rookie: Martin Jones
As an experienced veteran squad, you wouldn't expect the Kings to have multiple contenders for the midseason rookie award.
However, with injuries to a few stars, a number of players from the Manchester Monarchs have stepped up in a big way. Martin Jones barely beats out Tyler Toffoli—who has 17 points in 25 games—as the Kings' top rookie.
Jones made his NHL debut by doing the unthinkable, stopping all nine attempts in a shootout vs. the Anaheim Ducks. He's 8-2-0 overall with a 1.29 goals-against average, .955 save percentage and three shutouts.
If Jones continues to perform at this level, the Kings may want to consider trading Ben Scrivens at some point.
Note: Jones also gets the nod as the team's best goaltender at the midway point.
Best Defensive Player: Drew Doughty
No surprise here. Drew Doughty is one of the league's best defensemen and therefore a lock to play for Team Canada at the 2014 Olympics.
The 24-year-old is averaging 25:41 of ice time per game, more than four minutes higher than any other L.A. player. He has racked up six goals and 15 assists for 21 points and a plus-13 rating, while playing against some of the world's best forwards.
Doughty must continue to limit his mistakes in the defensive zone and generate more offense while quarterbacking the power play. How he plays in the next month will go a long way in determining his role with Team Canada.
And in the months following the Olympics, he should be a major factor as the Kings hunt for their first division title in more than two decades.
Most Valuable Player: Anze Kopitar
Year after year, Anze Kopitar is ignored in discussions of the NHL's elite forwards. Yet each season he puts up solid stats and plays incredible two-way hockey.
The first half of 2013 has been no different, as Kopitar leads the Kings with 33 points and is tied for the league lead with a plus-21 rating. Kopitar plays in all situations, including big minutes on the power play and penalty kill.
The Kings are at their best when Kopitar is leading the way. It's no coincidence that once Kopitar ended his 10-game goalless drought to start the season, the Kings started to rack up wins.
Look for Kopitar to average one point per game in the second half of the season and continue to win 55 percent of his draws. He could also earn a Selke nomination as one of the league's best defensive forwards.
Note: Kopitar is also given the top offensive player award.