The incoming Blake/Robitaille/Stevens administration seeks increased goal scoring and a quicker pace, but philosophy alone won’t put points on the board.
Anze Kopitar could still use some help. With just 12 goals and a career-worst 0.68 points-per-game, he led the team with 40 assists.
The Kings’ biggest off-season acquisition 35-year-old, oft-injured Mike Cammalleri returns as a likely top-line left wing after a tough year in New Jersey. I’m not convinced he’s the answer, but he does reunite the decade-old line including Kopitar and Dustin Brown.
Carter’s team-leading 66 points, surpassed only by his 46-goal, 38-assist 2008-09 Philly campaign. He may see an increase with the new offensive emphasis, but just as easily could regress.
Newly-extended Toffoli is coming off knee problems and a 24-point drop could return to 2015-16’s thirty-goal form.
Also freshly re-signed, Tanner Pearson appears important to future King plans. Pearson is adept at helping linemates produce more shots, and may see totals increase over last year’s 44-point career high.
Marian Gaborik’s knees can’t be trusted, and his surgery recovery timeframe is unclear. Another 50-games or less season looks on the horizon.
Prospects Adrian Kempe and Jonny Brodzinski will look to impress on the bottom six. Veteran Trevor Lewis after his second-most productive scoring year and continued strong possession numbers. Other bottom six candidates include co-enforcers Kyle Clifford and Andy Andreoff, depth staple Jordan Nolan, playmaker Nic Dowd and Nick Shore coming off career highs in goals (six) and assists (11).
Jake Muzzin to looks to return to the 40-point range after a nine-goal, 19-assist campaign.
The expansion draft departure of Brayden McNabb has spurred increased competition for the final pairing and seventh rearguard spot.
After his late-season success, Paul LaDue has his sights on a full-time role. Swedish import Oscar Fantenberg has impressed in the early preseason, Kevin Gravel and big, mobile free agent acquisition Christian Folin will be looking for roster spots.
Jonathan Quick is LA’s top goaltender, and one of the better ones in the West. He was solid after a late-season return from injury, approaching his goals against average (2.26) and save percentage (.917) from the previous two years.
The Kings will hope for no groin injury recurrence and hope to see if former Wild net keep Darcy Kuemper can fill the bill as second in command of the net.
Looking ahead to trade deadline – if sellers who could be on the move, if buyers what area might they need to improve? Defense is a perpetual LA strength, and the offense still looks lacking.
What rookies could make the team? On the blue line Fantenberg and LaDue. Among forwards, strong candidate Kempe just hits the 25-game threshold for rookie-status. Brodzinski will also push as could prolific OHL scorer Spencer Watson.
Which player could take a step forward this season? If Cammalleri has anything left, now is the time to show it. His success could lead to Kopitar again approaching familiar scoring heights. Toffoli should bounce back as well. Look for LaDue to cement a regular role.
Which players could regress? 2016-17 was great for Carter. Duplicating his numbers may be difficult.
Are there any training camp battles expected? Bottom-six and third-pairing spots are up for grabs. I’m not convinced Kuemper is set in stone as the number two in net although he should have the inside track.
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