5 Most Surprising Players for Los Angeles Kings Since Start of 2014-15 Season
There are good surprises and bad surprises, and that's certainly the case with the Los Angeles Kings this season.
The Kings are tied for third in the Pacific Division with the Calgary Flames. The Vancouver Canucks are second, and the San Jose Sharks are fifth. You would assume with time, the Flames will fall and the Sharks will rise. Perhaps that will be the case with the Kings players, as some seem to be playing at a level that's too good to be true.
It's a mixed bag of unexpected breakout performances from youngsters and disappointing stretches from veteran players that are usually reliable.
Here is a closer look at the most surprising players on the Kings early in 2014-15.
Wednesday's game against the Anaheim Ducks aside, Tanner Pearson has been a solid addition for the Kings this season.
The play of That 70s Line has been well publicized. When the line struggled to produce in recent weeks as often as it did early in the season, Pearson's ice time remained the same, and his defensive play was still worth noting.
The 22-year-old had fewer than 50 games of NHL experience prior to this season, so ranking third on the team with 10 points is surprising even 16 games in.
Now the question is: Was last night's game an anomaly, or is his ice time finally trending down to a level one would expect from a rookie on a defending Stanley Cup champion?
Scouts and fans alike expected this level of play from Tyler Toffoli—just not this soon. After a few years in the league, maybe he would be a top-six forward capable of producing offensively every night.
That's what Toffoli has done so far, as he leads the Kings with seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points and a plus-13 rating in 16 games. Oh, and he also leads the NHL with three short-handed goals this season.
Toffoli has great speed, he can see plays develop and he has elite playmaking skills to put his teammates in position to score when it looks impossible. He also trusts Jeff Carter and Pearson—take his long-range pass to Pearson against the Columbus Blue Jackets, for example.
Now, can he continue to have this success over an 82-game stretch?
Wednesday's game against the Ducks marked Dustin Brown's 736th with L.A. That means he now sits sixth on the Kings' all-time list alongside Butch Goring.
It's impressive and a testament to Brown's work ethic, as he rarely misses a game. However, that's probably the only milestone the captain will be hitting anytime soon, as he has struggled this season to the surprise of many.
In 16 games, Brown has two goals, no assists and a minus-three rating. While he's still a physical threat with 34 hits and the effort is there in the defensive zone, Brown must step up on offense. Regardless of who his linemates are, Brown should be effective on the forecheck—generating turnovers and causing havoc in front of the opposing goaltender.
With Jarret Stoll, you know what you're getting each night: A hardworking, defensive-minded player who is strong with or without the puck, can dominate in the faceoff circle and plays whatever role he's asked. Consistency is the name of the game.
So it's surprising to see Stoll in a bit of a slump to start the season. While his faceoff percentage has increased in recent weeks and now sits at a solid 54 percent, he hasn't been as effective of a two-way player. On top of that, he has just a single point on the year.
Stoll is capable of leading a line that can play a shutdown role against some of league's top players. He needs to get back to playing at that level defensively, and eventually the offense will come. He's a respected veteran in the lineup, and this is likely just a minor slump—not something that will span most of the season.
There were plenty of jokes and sarcastic comments on Twitter after Trevor Lewis chased Frederick Anderson from Wednesday's game with a not-so-pretty goal.
But let's give the fourth liner a little credit. In a season when most of the team has struggled to score, at least Lewis is offering some offense. It doesn't matter if it's more luck than skill; they all count the same.
Lewis has two goals and two assists for four points. It may not sound like much, but he's played just seven games because of injury.
His career-high is 14 points during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Put him down for 15 this season.