Top 5 Los Angeles Kings Training Camp Battles to Watch in 2014
The Los Angeles Kings are coming off a Stanley Cup championship and have kept nearly every player from the championship roster. But, that doesn't mean there won't be some intense competition in training camp.
According to LAKingsInsider.com, the Kings open camp at the Toyota Sports Center on Sept. 19; however, because of renovations to that facility, they will be moving to the Staples Center for the majority of camp.
Youngsters like Brayden McNabb and Derek Forbort will look to make a strong impression and show they've made improvements in recent months. On the other hand, veterans like Mike Richards will look to prove that a poor showing last season was a fluke.
These are the Kings' top battles to watch for in training camp.
5. Goaltending Tryout
According to LAKingsInsider.com, goaltender Jeff Deslauriers will attend Kings' camp on a tryout. Obviously he won't be battling Jonathan Quick, and even outdueling Martin Jones is highly unlikely.
It's a long shot, and that's what makes it interesting. Deslauriers is trying to prove something not just to the Kings, but to the hockey world. He's fighting for his career.
The 6'4", 203-pound netminder has suited up in 62 games for the Edmonton Oilers and Anaheim Ducks, but hasn't played in the NHL since 2011-12. He spent last season playing for the Wilkes-Barre Penguins of the AHL.
We should get a good idea very early in camp on how he stacks up against elite talent and whether he will have a shot at earning an NHL contract this season.
4. Battle for the First Line
Is it Dustin Brown's to lose? What about the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner?
Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar are locks to play together on the top line. Who will join them at the start of the year could come down to a number of factors, including the chemistry on other lines.
That said, it should be a battle between Brown and Justin Williams. Brown is great on the forecheck and can do the dirty work in front of the net, while Gaborik and Kopitar generate chances. Williams offers a bit less of a physical presence, but has shown he's still got a great shot and is perhaps the most clutch player on the team.
First line wing may be one of the most important positions on the team, but it's not the most noteworthy battle. Players will likely shift in and out of that spot throughout the season, as we've seen in the past.
3. Fight for the Fourth Line
The Kings have an abundance of tough, gritty players who offer great size, but limited speed and skill. This includes the likes of Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan, Trevor Lewis and newcomer Adam Cracknell.
Clifford has been a mainstay on the fourth line throughout the past four years and appeared in all 24 playoff games last season. He offers great size, and he and Lewis have plenty of experience playing on the same line.
Lewis seemed to take a step backward last year, after notching 14 points in 48 games in the lockout-shortened 2013-14 season; however, he does a respectable job at center on the fourth line.
Nolan and Cracknell will have some work to do. On many other teams they could step onto the ice easily, but with the depth in L.A., ice time is at a premium. Look for these two to be among the hardest working players in camp, as both are in the final years of their contracts.
2. Mike Richards vs. the Field
Mike Richards' struggles were well documented last season, and speculation swirled that he could be bought out.
He wasn't, and now the pressure is on for the Kenora, Ontario native to show he's still worth a hefty cap hit.
Richards centered the fourth line for much of the Kings' Cup run, and that simply can't happen again. He should be a second or, at worst, third-line player. Richards has the vision, playmaking skills and two-way abilities to be a center with an elite sniper like Jeff Carter.
Richards has plenty of experience playing with Carter and has shown he can thrive in all three zones. Now, standing in his way are youngsters like Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli.
This should make for an intriguing storyline throughout camp.
1. War on Defense
Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, Robyn Regehr, Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin have all but locked up their positions on the depth chart.
Leaving a battle for the No. 6 and No. 7 spots on defense. Veteran Matt Greene, Jeff Schultz and Brayden McNabb are all under contract for at least the next two years and will be competing with one another for these spots.
Greene should have an advantage as an established stay at home blueliner. He plays a simple, physical game and is willing to sacrifice his body to clear traffic and block shots.
Schultz is an underdog at age 27, as his potential is limited. The opposite is true for McNabb. At age 23, there is plenty of upside to the former Buffalo Sabre.
And, of course, what Darryl Sutter wants out of a third-pairing or seventh defenseman will play a huge role in this battle.