Los Angeles Kings Players with the Most to Prove During the 2014-15 Preseason
Training camp and the preseason are in full swing as the Los Angeles Kings prepare to begin their defense of the Stanley Cup.
The Kings have their core as well as much of their depth from last year intact. This leaves a limited number of roster spots for players to secure in the final week. It's a crucial time for the remaining 28 players in camp, especially the youngsters who spent the 2013-14 season with the Manchester Monarchs.
Note that Andrew Bodnarchuk is one of those 28 players, but he has a knee injury that will keep him from playing in any preseason games.
With the 2014-15 NHL campaign fast approaching, these are the Los Angeles players with the most to prove in the remaining preseason games.
Andy Andreoff scored early in the preseason in a split-squad game against the Arizona Coyotes. He hasn't found his name on the scoresheet since, but his performance has been consistent.
Andreoff has a lot to prove as he fights against the likes of Jordan Nolan, Adam Cracknell and Kyle Clifford for a spot on the roster—more specifically, a spot on the fourth line.
At 23 years old, he has yet to make an NHL appearance, suiting up for Manchester in each of the last two seasons. His numbers are decent, as he recorded 11 goals and 24 assists for 35 points in 76 games last season. Now, he must adjust and show he can play whatever role is asked of him.
That means suiting up alongside Trevor Lewis and wreaking havoc on the opposition for a few minutes per game. If he's faster than his competition and can make smart, quick decisions with the puck, he will have a shot at making the big club.
There weren't many who thought Jordan Weal would make it this far. After all, he lacks NHL size. At 5'10", 179 pounds, Weal must show that his small frame isn't a major drawback.
Speaking with LA Kings Insider, the 22-year-old summed up his performance thus far:
Getting better and better. I think I’m creating some chances, which that’s part of my game, is creating offensive chances. I think I’ve played with some great players and that’s helped out a lot, so I’ve just got to continue working hard and getting better shift-by-shift, game-by-game.
Weal has shown he can play in all three zones and sees the game well. His offensive output in the NHL would be limited and he obviously wouldn't be playing much more than 10 minutes a game. Therefore, he must play a consistent, error-free brand of hockey and be effective on the breakout.
Weal is a long shot to make the team to say the least. But the harder he works, the better chance he will have to step into the lineup at some point this year.
The Kings are deep on defense, but they're also very young.
Robyn Regehr and Matt Greene are the only established veterans over the age of 30. Most of the blueliners are under 25, including Drew Doughty.
There is an opportunity for Brayden McNabb to step in and compete for ice time with those youngsters. First he must prove he is capable of playing at the same level as Jeff Schultz and Greene.
The Kings have already shown they're confident in his abilities, having signed him to a two-year, $1.3 million contract in the offseason. If he plays well in the final two preseason games, he could suit up on opening night for the Kings—albeit in a limited role.
Adam Cracknell played a small role with the St. Louis Blues over the past four years before joining L.A. Now he's in the midst of one of the toughest battles in training camp, as he goes up against Jordan Nolan, Andy Andreoff and others for a job on the fourth line.
Cracknell offers good size at 6'2", 210 pounds and has shown in the past that he can get the puck to the net.
In the final two preseason games, he will try to show head coach Darryl Sutter and company that he can excel in the Kings' system.
He will need to play a tough, gritty style in all three zones, force turnovers and backcheck effectively. Right now, it appears as though it could be a toss-up as to who gets the final spots up front.