I will be previewing all 30 NHL clubs. I will be looking at their available salary cap room, the additions and deletions from the 2008-09 rosters, and where I think they will stack up in their division and conference for the 2009-10 season.
Let's get a move on with the Los Angeles Kings, which play in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference.
In 1967, the “Original Six” was joined by the expansion six and with this first wave of expansion during the modern era. The Penguins are the current Stanley Cup champions. The Flyers were the first of the expansion teams to win the Stanley Cup. The Blues were the first expansion team to reach the finals during their first three years of existence. The California Seals had many names and moved to Cleveland in 1978 but in 1979 they merged with the Minnesota North Stars, another expansion cousin. The North Stars’ franchise has reached the finals four times, (1981 and 1991, while in Minnesota and 1999 and 2000 after they moved to Dallas), winning the Cup in 1999.
The Los Angeles Kings have a very rich history in the National Hockey League and have had some of the greatest players in the history of hockey have worn their uniforms. The purple and gold Kings had players such as; Marcel Dionne, Dave Taylor, and Charlie Simmer, the trio was better known as the Triple Crown Line.
The silver and black version of the L.A. Kings had players like Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Luc Robitaille, Rob Blake, Larry Robinson, and Paul Coffey. The trade of Gretzky to the Kings in August of 1988 proved that everyone can be traded and started the end of players laying their entire career with one franchise (Lemieux, Sakic and Yzerman have been exceptions). In 1993, the Kings made their one and only appearance in the Stanley Cup finals appearance.
The modern era of the L.A. Kings have been waiting for the same consistence and great players to grace the ice in Los Angeles like in the past but the long wait may be almost over. Their uniforms are now black, purple, silver, and white. They are now led by General Manager Dean Lombardi, the same Mr. Lombardi that helped build the San Jose Sharks into one of the most dominant regular season teams during the past decade.
The Kings have one of the most talented groups of young prospects in the NHL. According to hockeysfuture.com, the Kings rank fourth in the NHL for young talent. Over the past two, World Junior U-20 Hockey Championships, the Kings prospects have graced the blue-line of Team Canada, Drew Doughty (the 2008 All-Tournament defensemen), Thomas Hickey, and Colton Teubert (on the 2009 roster).
This year’s team is young, talented and getting ready to challenge not only for a playoff spot but the Pacific Division title, let’s take a look at the ’09 -’10 version of the Los Angeles Kings.
The unrestricted free agent deals that were signed to join the Kings this season are as follows: Brandon Segal (Tampa Bay) and Rob Scuderi (Pittsburgh). Ryan Smyth was acquired via trade with the Colorado Avalanche for Tom Pressing and Kyle Quincey.
There are four remaining Kings that have yet to sign a deal with another franchise. They are Kyle Calder, Denis Gauthier, Daniel Taylor, and Derek Armstrong.
2009 – 10 Los Angeles Kings roster
The Kings currently have 17 players under one-way contracts; 11 forwards, five defensemen, and one goaltender. The six players that are likely to fill out the roster, that are on two-way contracts are as follows;
Jonathan Quick played in 44 games last season and finished with 21 wins during his rookie season.
Wayne Simmonds had 23 points in 82 games during his first season in the NHL.
Oscar Moller had 15 points in 40 games with the Kings. He split time between Manchester, Los Angeles, and he also suited up for Team Sweden at the World Junior Hockey Championship during the Christmas break.
Drew Doughty made the team out of training camp. The 19-year old defensemen had 27 points in 81 games. Although he was eligible for the World Junior Hockey Championship, the Kings deemed him to be too valuable to release to Team Canada. Doughty was a finalist for the Calder Trophy, presented to the NHL’s top rookie.
Thomas Hickey has finished with his junior career in Seattle. According to NHL.com, Hickey is likely to either start the season in Manchester or Los Angeles.
Trevor Lewis split time last year between the AHL and the NHL. In six games with the Kings, Lewis had three points and is likely to be given a longer look, at the start of the season, with the Kings.
With these 23 players, the Kings’ Salary Cap would sit at $52.7 million. It is likely that G.M. Dean Lombardi will continue to build this team through the draft and there are a number of prospects that may see some time during the season. Let’s take a look at some of the top young faces in the L.A. Kings organization.
Los Angeles's first round pick (fourth overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft has played with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League. Last season he captained Team Canada to a World Junior Gold medal in Ottawa, Ontario. He ended last season by playing seven games with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs, averaging a point per game.
According to hockeysfuture.com, “Hickey's strong suit is his skating ability, a skill that has enabled him to excel in the WHL at a young age. Another product of the successful Hockey Canada programs, Hickey exudes confidence on and off the ice. He plays bigger than his 5'11", 185-pound frame might suggest, a very well-spoken player that has great on-ice vision. He uses his skating ability to move the puck out of the zone and pressure the opposition's forwards up-ice.”
If Hickey makes the Kings coming out of training camp, that would give the franchise, two 20-year old defensemen. If you include Jack Johnson in the mix, the L.A. Kings would have three high quality starting defensemen, which are all under 22 years of age.
The Kings’ first overall pick (11th Overall) in the 2006 Entry Draft, spent last season with the Monarchs in the AHL. At the beginning of the 2007-08 season, Bernier played games with the Kings, before going back to his junior club in the QMJHL.
According to hockeysfuture.com, “Bernier is a hybrid stand-up and butterfly goaltender with great reflexes, is very quick moving from post-to-post with tremendous puck-handling skills around the net. He plays big in big games—save his performance in the 2006 CHL Top Prospects game, wherein the young goaltender allowed six goals on 31 shots in 32 minutes work. He is occasionally prone to get agitated in net when facing intense traffic, but generally manages to keep a level head.”
According to NHL.com, Bernier suffered through inconsistency after watching Jonathan Quick move past him on the Kings' goaltending depth chart and play well with the big club. But L.A. is still high on the athletic native of Laval, Quebec; though it's time for the 2006 first-round pick to put together a strong season and impresses club officials.
L.A.’s first round pick (fifth overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, is the younger brother of Toronto’s top prospect, Luke Schenn. It is likely that Schenn will go back to the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings for the up-coming season. Brandon has an automatic berth into the Memorial Cup this season as the host city.
According to NHL Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire, "Brayden is of the power-forward ilk. He has learned a little about the NHL from his older brother Luke Schenn and he knows how to go to the net. He is a threat to score at all times on the ice and dishes the puck very effectively to his linemates in getting the amount of assists that he does. He takes the puck to the net with the kind of authority that a Jonathan Cheechoo does, yet has puck dishing capacities that maybe a Joe Thornton does. Both are tough players, both are tough to move out in front of the net and Brayden fits that ilk perfectly."
Los Angeles’s second round pick (32nd overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, spent last season with the Monarchs of the AHL. Voinov finished tied for the team lead in defensemen scoring with 23 points
According to hockeyfutures.com, “Voinov is an above average skater with good technique, but has only average acceleration and needs to improve his first step. A capable puck handler, capable of bringing the puck up the ice but doesn’t shoot the puck as often as he should in the offensive zone. He has a decent slap shot from the blue line and is capable of quarterbacking a powerplay with some nice feeds and calm puck management. Voinov is capable of playing physical hockey and taking the game to his opponents, even if he is smaller than them in stature. Voinov is capable of making nice open ice hits, but doesn’t hit in the open ice as often as he should. He is very strong positionally, but at times can be caught out of position, especially in the neutral zone if he decides to take a chance on the play and create an offensive chance for his linemates. Voinov is not very big, thus putting to question his ability to fully adopt his skill-set to North American hockey, though he has proven his ability to play well in traffic and under pressure. He is very mature for his age, getting significant minutes against professionals in the Super League from the age of just 16. Voinov sees the ice very well and understands the game, making very good decisions with and without the puck.”
Los Angeles’s first round pick (13th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft; Teubert has played the last four seasons with the Regina Pats of the WHL. When his junior season ended, he started his professional career in the ECHL with the Ontario Reign, playing eight games.
According to hockeyfutures.com, Ellerby is still a raw talent. Ellerby plays with a chip on his shoulder, his rough and tumble tendencies sometimes see him take unnecessary penalties. He has decent hockey sense, and is still honing the skill areas of his game.
According to NHL Director of Central Scouting, E.J. McGuire, "Colten is a smooth skating defenseman, who can skate the puck out of trouble and can jump up the ice with the puck. I like Colten for a lot of reasons, but most of all for his ability to take charge of the game. He projects as a support three or four defenseman, at least initially in the NHL, with a good offensive upside who won’t hurt you on defense."
Recap of 2008-09
The Kings finished tied for fourth in the Pacific Division and finished tied for 13th in the Western Conference with a record of 34-37-11, good for 79 points. They had the exact same point total as the Phoenix Coyotes but finished with two less wins.
The Kings' offense was lead by Anze Kopitar (66 points) and Alexander Frolov (32 goals and 61 points). The Kings’ had three players break the 20-goal plateau and six players finished with double digit goals.
The Kings offense was 27th in the NHL with 202 goals for and defensively, the Kings were 11th in the NHL and sixth in the Western Conference.
The Kings' powerplay ranked 14th in the NHL, clicking on only 19.2 percent of their chances, but were seventh in killing penalties (82.9 percent).
Outlook for 2009-10
The Kings are a very young but have the potential to be a very good team for years to come. With the acquisition of Ryan Smyth from Colorado, he brings his leadership and experience to a young and talented forward core. Kopitar, Frolov, Moller, and Dustin Brown are good young core to build around.
The Kings should have eight forwards; three defensemen and their starting goaltender are all under 25 years old. As these players continue to gain experience, it will lead to an improved product on the ice.
They have finally found a legitimate starting goaltender and a very capable back-up. If they should faultier, Bernier is waiting in the AHL for his chance at the big time.
The defensive group may have the best young prospects in the NHL, with as many as five top flight young defensemen. Between Doughty, Johnson, Teubert, Hickey, and Teubert, the organization looks set for the future.
Every year there is at least one team that surprises the league and comes out of nowhere to make a surprising bid into the playoffs. The Kings have all the ingredients to surprise the league this year. I believe the Kings will finish third in the Pacific Division and finishing eighth in the conference.
This is a quote from G.M. Dean Lombardi about the atmosphere around the Kings. "When I first got here, not one player stayed here over the summer and worked out. Here we were in the most beautiful place to play and not one player stayed, which is abnormal. This year, we had bunch of guys here at the end of June not only working out but pushing themselves, which is a huge step in building a culture here, building an identity."
On Aug. 30, I will be reviewing Minnesota Wild as I continue to preview each of the 30 NHL clubs. Look for my four-part article on how I would improve the NHL and my other previously published articles on bleacherreport.com.
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