Buying or Selling Los Angeles Kings Players' Hot Starts in 2014-15
The Los Angeles Kings have dealt with a number of injuries, the indefinite suspension of a player and salary cap issues. Yet, they remain in a playoff spot at 10-5-4, having seemingly avoided any type of Stanley Cup hangover.
This is due, in large part, to the play of "That 70s Line" and some spectacular goaltending. These and other hot starts have allowed the Kings to win games, despite not dominating the puck possession battle like they usually do.
But a quarter of the way into the season, it's time to ask: Are those hot starts sustainable?
Jeff Carter: Buy
Jeff Carter is living up to his potential in the prime of his career. He's the offensive force the hockey world expected him to be since he was drafted.
In 19 games, he's notched seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points. He has an impressive plus-14 rating, is winning over 55 percent of his draws and has played strong defensively.
Carter will keep it up. If there's one player on the Kings you can depend on for consistency—besides Anze Kopitar—it's Carter. He's 29 years old, is in great shape and has shown throughout his time with the Kings that he's capable of adjusting and playing well with any linemates.
Tyler Toffoli: Sell
Tyler Toffoli is a great player with a dynamic skill set, but he lacks experience.
He's off to such a good start that it just isn't sustainable. With eight goals and 10 assists, he has 18 points in 19 games—one more than Carter. Toffoli has performed at a level many didn't expect him to reach for another year or two.
After all, he's only 22 years old.
Toffoli averaged less than .5 points per game last season, registering 29 points in 62 games. It's tough to see him following that up with a near point-per-game pace. He might hit 60 points, but getting over 70 is extremely unlikely. Kopitar is the lone King who puts up those numbers.
Toffoli is a player who can put up stats like Kopitar in a couple of years—but not this year. He has already started to cool off in recent games, with just one point in his past four games.
Jake Muzzin: Buy
Jake Muzzin's five-year, $20 million contract extension is looking like a solid deal for L.A. so far.
The 25-year-old defenseman has played six fewer games than most of his teammates, but he ranks sixth on the team with eight points. He also has 34 hits and 26 blocked shots. Again, those are solid numbers considering his number of games played.
Buy his hot start for now. While he may not keep producing points at this pace, he should have his best offensive season—and defensive season—with increased ice time. Darryl Sutter trusts him to play a bigger role, perhaps partially because he has no choice with Slava Voynov suspended indefinitely.
This is what Sutter had to say about Muzzin and getting shots through, according to LAKingsInsider.com:
“Well, we’re using him on the power play, so he should be getting shots. I’m not concerned with ‘how many.’ I’m concerned when they don’t have any."
Muzzin has improved greatly in the last two seasons and could take his biggest step yet in 2014-15.
Anze Kopitar: Buy
This one is obvious. Kopitar is among the team leaders statistically, although his start has been a little slow by his standards.
Kopitar has five goals and five assists for 10 points in 16 games to go along with a plus-one rating. With good health and healthy linemates, the 27-year-old should once again ascend to the top in a number of statistical categories for L.A.
He has an impact on every shift with his play on the forecheck by forcing turnovers, winning faceoffs and backchecking. Look for Kopitar to dominate throughout the season at both ends of the rink, as expected.
Jonathan Quick: Buy
Jonathan Quick has had a few tough stretches in recent years—particularly at the start of last year's playoffs. But look how that turned out.
Quick is playing at an elite level this season, and he is proving once again that he should be considered one of the world's best along with the likes of Henrik Lundqvist.
He is 9-3-4 with a 2.06 goals-against average, .938 save percentage and two shutouts.
It's a hot start worth buying, as even when Quick experiences a cold stretch, he inevitably bounces back with a great series of starts that makes up for it. Look for Quick to be one of the team's most valuable players and a contender for the Vezina Trophy this season.