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After Tonight, The Los Angeles Kings May Be The No. 1 Team In The NHL

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IDecember 14, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 07:  Justin Williams #14 of the Los Angeles Kings congratulates teammate Teddy Purcell #54 following the the Kings' 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames at Staples Center on December 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

It has been quite a while since LA Kings fans have had something to brag about.

With a win tonight over Vancouver, they may have something no other fan base in the NHL will have: a No. 1 team.

The Kings are already the top team in the Western Conference (they have 45 points, same as the San Jose Sharks, but two more wins).

But, with Washington (46 points), New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and San Jose (all with 45 points) out of action tonight, a win over the hosting Canucks would put the Kings in sole possession of the top spot in the league.

As much of the NHL's fan base lives in the Eastern time zone, the Kings' position as one of the top teams in the league may be a bit of a surprise.

However, for those who watch the team on a regular basis, their dominance is certainly appreciated, but not unexpected.

The Kings sport one of the league's deepest offensive rosters which boasts eight players with 20 or more points.

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Solid draft selections and key trade acquisitions have quickly built the Kings into a team that is perilously close to "contender" status.

Draft picks Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and Wayne Simmonds have, respectively, developed into the star center, power forward, No. 1 defenseman, and two-way forward every team dreams of having in their line-up.

Along with defenseman Jack Johnson (originally drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005, but acquired via trade in 2006; the Kings are the only NHL team for which he has ever played) this group of young stars represent the core of LA's team.

In addition to their draft picks, trade acquisitions Matt Greene and Jarett Stoll (both acquired in 2008 from Edmonton in exchange for defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky) have also emerged as key ingredients to the Kings' success.

However, it is last summer's acquistion of Ryan Smyth from the Colorado Avalanche that put the finishing touch on a team that is now fully free of their "rebuilding" status.

Until his injury on Nov. 17, Ryan Smyth, along with center Anze Kopitar and winger Justin Williams, completed one of the most dangerous lines in hockey.

The question mark for the Kings so far this season has been in goal.

Starter Jonathan Quick doesn't have stellar numbers (.903 SV percentage and 2.60 GAA), however, his 19 wins put him second only to Martin Brodeur this season.

In the midst of his first season as the team's undisputed No. 1 goalie, Quick looks like he may be rounding into a player not unlike Detroit veteran Chris Osgood. 

He may not ever be a Vezina finalist, but he wins the games you need to win to keep your team at the top of the standings and maybe even good enough for a championship or two.

So, for those not quite yet aware, the Kings are absolutely for real folks.

After tonight, the Kings might not just be the name of LA's hockey team, but the new monarchs of the NHL.

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