Los Angeles Kings' Position Battles to Watch in 2014 Offseason
The Los Angeles Kings have incredible depth at forward, defense and in goal. Plus, they are still a young team.
The first line of Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown should be solidified heading into next season, and Jonathan Quick is firmly entrenched as the team's starting netminder. However, aside from at those spots, there are a number of position battles which will take place prior to next season.
At forward, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson will look to maintain spots in the top six, while Brayden McNabb is looking to secure a regular spot in the lineup on defense.
These are the Kings' position battles to watch in the offseason.
"That 70s Line" performed superbly in the 2013-14 playoffs. Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson were all in the top 10 on the team in points and were a combined plus-21.
The battle to watch for revolves around Mike Richards. He has played on a line with Carter for most of his Kings tenure and will be looking to work his way back up the lineup after spending the postseason on the fourth unit.
Richards typically plays center, meaning Carter would be bumped to the wing. Toffoli would likely complete the trio, as the three have played together in the past.
The question is, will Richards or Pearson provide more offensive upside?
Another key battle will involve left wingers Dwight King and Kyle Clifford.
King just agreed to a three-year, $5.85 million contract (per CapGeek.com) which will see him earn an average of $1.95 million per season. Not bad for a player who just broke the 15-point mark for the first time this past season by recording 15 goals and 15 assists for 30 points.
Meanwhile, Clifford is coming off his worst campaign as a pro, notching just eight points in 71 games.
Both players bring tremendous size and strength and work well on the forecheck. With Jarret Stoll as a lock to center the third line, Clifford will have to prove he has the speed and ability to make adjustments to improve offensively. Otherwise, King will spend most of the season on the third line.
The Kings' top five on defense is comprised of Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, Robyn Regehr and Slava Voynov. Heading into the season, veteran Matt Greene should take the sixth spot.
That leaves Jeff Schultz and Brayden McNabb to fight for the seventh spot.
Schultz is 28 years old and has 399 regular-season games' worth of NHL experience. He stands 6'6" and weighs 225 pounds. With Schultz, you know what you're going to get game in and game out. He isn't flashy but will play strong shutdown defense.
McNabb is just 23 years old but also offers good size at 6'4", 208 pounds. Though he has just 37 games' worth of NHL experience, he still has potential to improve significantly.
Keep an eye out for this battle during the preseason, as both players should get an opportunity to play big minutes and likely see some special teams time as well.