Predicting the Statistical Leaders for the Los Angeles Kings in 2014-15
The defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings probably won't have a player inside the top 10 in any major statistical category. They rarely have in recent years.
The Kings play a style that leads to many low-scoring games. Even Anze Kopitar—as talented as he is—has topped 80 points only once in his stellar career.
With that in mind, predicting who will lead the Kings in those statistical categories isn't difficult. Most categories have had the same player at the top of the list in the last five or so seasons, and that shouldn't change in 2014-15.
Here are the predictions for who will lead the Kings in points, assists, goals, plus/minus and penalty minutes next season.
Anze Kopitar: 80 Points
It's a safe bet. Unless Anze Kopitar is injured and misses 10 or more games, he will lead the Kings in points.
He's done it for seven consecutive seasons, and there is no reason he can't continue to do so for the next seven. Kopitar is one of the most diverse players in the league, and he's expected to perform at an all-world level in any game situation.
If Kopitar was on a different team, it's possible he could rack up 90 points per season easily, but that's not what the Kings need. They are a team that wins by dominating the puck-possession battle and playing sound, physical defense.
That is why it's unlikely any player will come close to Kopitar's point total, as was the case in 2013-14 when Jeff Carter finished second, 20 points behind Kopitar.
Anze Kopitar: 50 Assists
Anze Kopitar has consistently put up 40-something assists per season since his rookie year. Early in his career, he did that without suiting up next to a world-class scorer like Jeff Carter or Marian Gaborik.
Kopitar has an incredible ability to see plays develop and can make good, clean passes from anywhere on the ice. Playing with a sniper who has a quick release and a good one-timer only increases Kopitar's chances of topping 50 assists.
Leading the team in assists is a given. The Slovenian has done that every season with the Kings except his rookie campaign when Mike Cammalleri had 46 and Kopitar had 41.
With all that said, it shouldn't come as a surprise to see who is predicted to lead the Kings in assists in 2014-15.
Marian Gaborik: 37 Goals
This is a two-horse race. Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter should be well ahead of their teammates in goals scored by the middle of the season.
Gaborik gets the edge because he should slot in alongside the team's best playmaker—Anze Kopitar—on the top line. Along with Dustin Brown or Justin Williams, this is by far the Kings' most dangerous line.
In terms of skill, it's hard to pick between the two snipers. Gaborik and Carter both have quick releases and the ability to pick corners from anywhere in the offensive zone. Gaborik has the edge in 40-goal seasons with three while Carter has one and was on pace for another in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
Look for both players to light it up on the power play and hit the 35-goal mark. But it's Gaborik who will finish with a couple more tallies, if only because he will have the more skilled linemates.
Dustin Brown: Plus-25
Dustin Brown will not have back-to-back sub-par seasons.
He struggled early in 2013-14 and never quite broke out of his funk, finishing with 15 goals and 12 assists for a career-low 27 points. The captain played a much bigger role in the postseason, notching 14 points and matching his plus-seven rating from the regular season.
This prediction is a bit of a stretch compared to the others. It will depend heavily on Brown staying on the top line and Kopitar earning a lot of tough defensive zone starts.
Brown's best rating in a season is plus-18, and he recorded a plus-16 rating in the 2011-12 postseason.
Kyle Clifford: 78 Penalty Minutes
Make it five consecutive years for the 6'2", 211-pound forward.
Kyle Clifford has led the Kings in penalty minutes in each of the last four seasons, including 2013-14 when he recorded just 81 penalty minutes in 71 games. That's a significant drop-off from the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons when he topped the 120 mark.
The reason for the decrease is that he's taking fewer major and misconduct penalties. However, he should be able to lead the team even if most of his minutes are from minor penalties. There aren't any other players who fight regularly on L.A.
Also in the hunt will be the likes of Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and fourth-liners like Jordan Nolan and Adam Cracknell.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.
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