The Los Angeles Kings, admittedly by design, are carrying a very young roster for the upcoming season. As it stands on July 29, there are currently three players over the age of 30—Derek Armstrong (35), Michal Handzus (31), and Denis Gauthier Jr. (31).
One might think, then, that one of these veterans would be the clear candidate to Captain this young team during the 2008-09 season.
This is not the case.
Derek Armstrong has arguably played the biggest role of these names on the Kings in recent years, spending some time on the second power-play unit last season. That, however, is a trend that hopefully will not continue, after Armstrong posted a dismal eight goals in 77 games played.
Michal Handzus, then, surely could sport the stitches on the front of the sweater. After all, he is the highest paid King this season, with a salary of $4 million.
His numbers on the ice, sadly, are less impressive.
The solution, as a fitting symbol for the entire program, lies in the young talent.
Jack Johnson is one potential young candidate. Johnson possesses as much all-around defensive talent as any other D-man in the NHL. He can move the puck, shoot, and line up crushing hits with the best of them.
At age 21, he has not even come close to maximizing his potential. He is sure to be a many time All-Star starting in three years or less.
Alexander Frolov has been one of the most consistent offensive weapons in the Kings arsenal for a few years now.
He is great in the corners, has tremendous vision, and frequently buries big goals. He has put up very respectable numbers, even while playing alongside sub-par offensive performers.
Anze Kopitar, the only player on the roster to ever appear in an All-Star game, is a strong favorite for the captaincy.
Kopitar is one of the brightest young stars in the entire NHL, and has limitless potential.
He has already put the team on his back in numerous performances, including a spectacular OT goal effort against the Dallas Stars, when the Kings came back from a 4-0 deficit in the third period.
Anze is L.A.'s most talented player, and if he was named the new Los Angeles captain, I would be neither surprised or upset. However, there is one player more deserving of sporting the 'C' on his chest:
Dustin has been the Kings' white knight for several years now, and he is only 23. He led the NHL in hits last season in a landslide victory with 311—45 more than the next highest total. The incredible part is that he was also productive offensively, scoring 33 goals and 60 points.
Though these stats are indeed very impressive, what's most important about Brown is his work ethic.
I have personally seen him working out at the Kings' practice facility, The Toyota Center in El Segundo, numerous times when no other Kings were to be found. Most recently, he was at the Kings' prospect camp and took advantage of breaks in between the rookies' sessions to get some extra skating in. Again, he was alone.
I predict that Dustin Brown will again lead the NHL in hits this year, will flirt with 40 goals, and will be wearing the purple 'C' while doing so.