Predicting Los Angeles Kings' Best Player at Each Position in 5 Years
It's already been two years since the Los Angeles Kings won their first Stanley Cup and five years since the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings battled for a championship for a second consecutive year.
The next few years in the NHL will fly by, especially since it should be free of lockouts.
For the Kings, much of their team could remain intact, as a number of core players are signed through 2018-19.
The question is, will their top players today still be the best then or will a younger wave step in and take spots on the top lines usually reserved for players like Dustin Brown, Justin Williams and Jeff Carter?
This is a look at who the best player will be at each position for the Kings in five years. Some of the predictions will be obvious, whereas others may surprise you.
Goalie: Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Quick is set to enter the second year of a 10-year, $58 million contract. He's the backbone of the team now and should be for at least the next five years.
Even when he's struggled for long stretches—such as early in the 2013-14 playoffs—he has always bounced back in a big way. The only concern with Quick is injuries.
The 28-year-old has dealt with a variety of injuries in his career, including a groin strain which kept him out for a good chunk of the 2013-14 season. He also underwent wrist surgery in late June to repair damage sustained during the Kings' playoff run.
If he can stay healthy, keep his save percentage above .920 and goals-against average below 2.30, he should have little trouble staying ahead of Martin Jones on the depth chart.
Defense: Drew Doughty
A Norris Trophy finalist, two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time Stanley Cup champion, Drew Doughty should be the Kings' top defenseman for a decade and one of the world's best for the next five years.
Doughty has great speed and agility, especially considering he stands 6'1" and weighs 213 pounds. He can carry the puck coast to coast in a manner not unlike that of Bobby Orr in his prime.
His speed and puck-handling abilities are top-notch, and those shouldn't go away in the next five years.
The 24-year-old's offensive production has varied throughout his career and is highlighted by a 59-point campaign in 2009-10. Overall, he's averaged about a point every other game for his entire career. He's been better in the playoffs, with 50 points in 76 career games.
His play in the defensive zone has never wavered. He uses his size to keep players from the front of the net, block shots and pin forwards along the end boards.
Doughty's hard-nosed defensive approach may decline with age, but not in the next five years.
Left Wing: Tanner Pearson
The Kings have been looking for a strong, dynamic left winger for a few years to balance out the skill they have up the middle and on the right side.
They have found that player in 21-year-old Tanner Pearson.
He still has a few years to go to reach his potential, but he received great experience in the 2013-14 playoffs. He appeared in 24 of the team's 26 games and has now played the same number of career playoff games as regular-season contests.
Pearson is 6'1" and weights 200 pounds. He has excellent vision and hockey sense, a strong shot, and he is good in his own end. The one area he needs to improve on is his skating, but he showed in the postseason that he's already improving in that department.
Marian Gaborik is easily the best left winger on the squad now, but in five years it should be Pearson.
Right Wing: Tyler Toffoli
The Kings' best right wingers at this time are Dustin Brown (29) and Justin Williams (32). The pair will be in its mid-30s in five years, meaning these veterans will likely have lost a step and won't be able to play as many minutes.
Tyler Toffoli will quickly become team's best option on the right side at both even strength and on the power play.
The 22-year-old is proving to be a steal, having been drafted 47th overall in 2010. He has great playmaking skills, a quick release and he is a strong player without the puck. Toffoli should continue to bulk up a bit in the next year or two (currently 6'1", 196 lbs) and become an even better skater.
With a good center like Kopitar or Carter, don't be surprised if Toffoli is the team's top scoring winger in five years.
Center: Anze Kopitar
The Kings' best center now should be by far their best forward for the next seven or eight years.
Anze Kopitar is 26 years old, which will put him in the midst of his prime five years from now. Kopitar stands 6'3" and weighs 224 pounds. He's spent his entire career in L.A. since being drafted 11th overall in 2005.
He has exceeded expectations as a two-way player, playmaker, scorer and faceoff man. There is no reason to believe his performance will waver in the coming years.
He appears to be in great shape and his conditioning is top-notch. He never shows signs of fatigue—even this past year when he played a ton of minutes for Slovenia at the Olympics.
Kopitar has had little injury trouble in his career, having appeared in all 82 games in five of his eight NHL seasons.
He's recorded nearly a point per game throughout his career, while putting an emphasis on backchecking and responsible play in the defensive zone. Kopitar is the whole package, and L.A. fans can only hope he retires a King.