Power Ranking Los Angeles Kings' Top 6 Forwards for 2014-15 Season
This will give Darryl Sutter the luxury to mix-and-match players—specifically on the second and third lines. The duo of Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar is a lock on the top line, and Dustin Brown will likely take a spot on the wing with them.
The Kings are loaded with players who offer a great mix of size and skill and have the best group of centers in the game. L.A. had four forwards top the 20-point mark in the 2013-14 playoffs and another five forwards who registered at least 10 points.
With both regular-season and playoff performance given consideration, this is a look at how the Kings' top forwards rank heading into 2013-14.
6. Tyler Toffoli
Tyler Toffoli beats out veterans such as Mike Richards for the sixth spot on the list.
The 6'1", 196-pound forward is just 22 years old but is already making a push to be a regular on the Kings' second line. He is a highly skilled player who has great vision with the puck. Toffoli has developed good chemistry with Tanner Pearson, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
In 62 games last season, he racked up 12 goals and 17 assists for 29 points to go along with a plus-21 rating. He continued his strong play in the postseason, notching seven goals and seven assists for 14 points in 26 games.
He should improve more with age and experience, particularly his play without the puck in the neutral and defensive zones. Look for Toffoli to hit the 45-point mark next season.
5. Dustin Brown
He may have got off to a slow start to the 2013-14 season, but in the end, the captain skated over to Gary Bettman to accept the Stanley Cup for a second time.
Dustin Brown was hampered by a hamstring injury early in the season. His physical play eventually returned, but he didn't make an impact on the scoreboard. Brown racked up just 15 goals and 12 assists for 27 points in 79 games.
However, he turned it around in the postseason, which, along with his experience, has him ranked just ahead of Toffoli. Brown finished tied with Toffoli with 16 points in the playoffs and made his presence known each shift, recording an astounding 125 hits. That's 30 more than Jarret Stoll, who ranked second on the team.
The 2013-14 season was likely a fluke for Brown, and he should be expected to return to his normal level of offensive production in 2014-15—and regularly suit up on the top line.
4. Justin Williams
Mr. Game 7, a three-time Stanley Cup champion, a Conn Smythe winner—Justin Williams isn't the most skilled player on the ice, but he plays with heart, and he always shows up in the biggest moments.
Williams was one of the few L.A. players to appear in all 82 games in 2013-14, and he finished third on the team in points. In the playoffs, he played some of the best hockey of his career.
The 32-year-old notched two goals and three assists for five points in three Game 7s. He finished tied with Jeff Carter for second on the team in playoff points with 25, one behind Anze Kopitar. Williams had a playoff-best plus-13 rating and averaged close to 17 minutes of ice time per game.
Williams probably won't dominate offensively next season—he hasn't reached the 60-point mark since 2006-07—but he will provide great two-way play, supply depth scoring and pitch in on special teams.
When the Conn Smythe winner ranks outside your top three forwards, you know you have great depth.
3. Jeff Carter
Aside from Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos, there are few hockey players in the world who have a shot as strong and accurate as Jeff Carter.
The 29-year-old center is in the prime of his career, and it showed in the playoffs as he finished with 10 goals and 15 assists for 25 points. Only Marian Gaborik found the back of the net more often, and only Anze Kopitar topped Carter's point total.
Carter's season was average by his standards, however, with 50 points in 72 games. That leaves him ranked third on the list.
Expect Carter to start the season at center on the Kings' second line, perhaps alongside Toffoli and Pearson as he was for much of the playoffs. That 70s Line developed instant chemistry, which carried on throughout most of the Kings' Stanley Cup run.
2. Marian Gaborik
Marian Gaborik lead all postseason scorers with 14 goals in 26 games, and he was rewarded for it. He signed a seven-year, $34.125 million contract to remain in L.A.
Arriving at the trade deadline, the 32-year-old Slovakian brought the offensive punch the Kings needed down the stretch and in the playoffs. He and linemate Anze Kopitar took a few weeks to jell, but when they did, they suddenly became one of the most dangerous duos in the league.
Gaborik is able to use his speed and agility to find open space off the rush and on the power play, which is perfect for a playmaker with Kopitar's abilities. Gaborik's quick release was on display throughout the playoffs and should be again next season.
There is no guarantee he tops 40 goals as he's done three times before; however, 30 should come easy as long as he's playing with Kopitar.
1. Anze Kopitar
Topping the list is Anze Kopitar, a superstar who rarely gets treated like one.
Kopitar continues to do it all for L.A. He plays over 20 minutes per game, wins more than 53 percent of his faceoffs, contributes on special teams, plays strong defense, hits and obviously has no trouble racking up points. Even on a possession-based, defense-first team such as L.A., Kopitar is still good for at least 70 points per season.
As mentioned in the previous slide, Kopitar and Gaborik have great chemistry, and that certainly helped him lead the playoffs with 26 points. However, Kopitar has been producing at a high rate in the playoffs throughout his career, regardless of his linemates.
He's still only 26 years old and has the potential to be better in the coming years. And yet, he may never get the individual recognition he deserves. He isn't likely to win the Hart Trophy or Art Ross—even the Selke seems tough to reach, although he's been nominated.
Perhaps it's because his stats don't stand out or where he plays; whatever the reason, Kopitar rarely gets acknowledged as one of the NHL's top forwards.
And that is exactly what he is.