Did training camp expose a surprise embarrassment of roster riches for the Kings?
The Kings have two main issues to work out before the regular season: 1) establishing a consistent left wing, and 2) nailing down a strong defense.
We’ve checked out both rookie camp and the main training camp to see how the team’s looking after summer break. Though options seemed thin at times during the summer, getting both NHL roster players and top prospects on the ice at once proved that preseason could be more of a showdown than expected.
Brand new royalty
The Kings lost all three of their UFAs during the offseason — Rob Scuderi, Dustin Penner, and Brad Richardson — but most of the Cup-winning core remains. Jonathan Bernier also peaced out to take a run at the starter position in Toronto, but the Kings scooped up goaltender Ben Scrivens to play behind Jonathan Quick in return. In addition to being a solid backup, Scrivens thankfully fills the Dustin Penner on Twitter void.
My tweet to retweet ratio has been disparagingly bad lately. My apologies. I'll make it up by letting you know I bought short shorts today.
— Ben Scrivens (@scrivens_30) August 14, 2013
PHEW. Player social media comedy value still intact.
Plus, GM Dean Lombardi still isn’t one to make a trade without a little magic, so the Kings didn’t only get Scrivens in the Bernier trade. The club also secured a conditional second-round draft pick from the Leafs and Matt Frattin, a dude infamous for dedicating himself to alcoholism early and throwing a lawn mower off his roof.
He obviously had Lombardi at hot mess.
Frattin has cleaned up his act since his rowdy college days, including putting up 13 points in 25 games with the Leafs in 2012-13. Lombardi’s been trying to close this guy for the past couple years, and now Frattin’s finally in LA. Darryl Sutter says he can complete the second line threesome with Richards and Carter unless someone manages to outshine him in camp.
Someone like Dan Carcillo, I guess?
Unlike Frattin, who plays right wing, Carcillo (aka Car Bomb, aka Gorilla Salad, aka Chico these days for no reason) is an actual listed left-winger. Last season he put up less points overall than Dustin Penner but scored as many regular season goals — a whopping two. Celebrate!
He’s got a lot to prove coming into LA, but apparently management thinks he can do something useful. Eventually fans might see what or maybe we’ll see Carcillo continue his super successful career as a healthy scratch.
The defensemen Hunger Games
Right now the Kings have 12 defensemen listed on the team site’s active roster, not including Andrew Campbell, who was announced as part of the roster during Hockey Fest. In the absence of Rob Scuderi and the uncertainty surrounding Willie Mitchell’s return, the Kings have decided to let defensemen beat each other to a pulp in camp to see who’s better.
The good news: Willie Mitchell’s definitely back!
— Willie Mitchell (@Willie_Mitch33) September 12, 2013
Sutter’s being cautious about getting him back into things after a year away, which still leaves room for other guys to show up on the ice. Robyn Regehr returns after being closer to death than Anze Kopitar during the playoffs thanks to an infected elbow that sounds like it was completely disgusting.
The Kings re-signed RFAs Jake Muzzin, Keaton Ellerby and Alec Martinez in addition to giving hard looks to prospects like Derek Forbort and Colin Miller. They’ve also brought in Jeff Schultz in the club’s only new free agent signing during the offseason.
It’s been written that Jeff Schultz asked to be released from the Washington Capitals and was amazing a few years ago, but Kings fans have a hard time remembering Schultz exists.
Or maybe it’s just me.
This veteran coming straight from our collective imaginations was signed at only $700k for one year and rounds out the pool of guys slaughtering each other for a permanent spot.
It turns out the Kings have a pretty good stable of prospects. Kings rookies beat the Anaheim Ducks rookies in both of the SoCal Hockey Futures games last week. They slaughtered the Ducks 6-1 at Honda Center and finished them off 3-2 at the Toyota Sports Center two nights later. Now, all eyes are on whether Manchester’s top liners Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, and Linda Vey can crack the Kings roster for good this season.
Even though Darryl Sutter has said he can envision a scenario where Tyler “Top Titty” Toffoli starts the season with the Monarchs, being voted 2012-13 AHL Rookie of the Year and putting up 11 points in 22 total games (10 regular, 12 playoffs) for the Kings last season suggests otherwise. The possibility of a regular Lewis-Stoll-Toffoli third line already makes me want to dance in aisles.
Pearson got called up for Game 3 against the San Jose Sharks in the WCSF but seemed lost as hell among the action, underwhelming Kings fans during his first time in the big show. Seeing him play the first rookie game changed my mind on him. He scored twice and had Ducks players chasing after him all night. Now that he’s been exposed to the pace of NHL games and has gone through another summer of development with the club, Pearson seems like he could add speed to at least a few regular season games with the Kings during 2013-14.
Linden Vey has yet to see NHL ice time but logged 67 points in the AHL last season and is credited with usually being the playmaker alongside Toffoli and Pearson. (Of last year’s points, 45 were assists.) His goal in training camp this year is to scare the bejesus out of fourth line players like Nolan and Colin Fraser.
“Everything starts with defense. I mean, we’ve been here a couple years with Darryl now. I think it’s repetitive and keep getting the message across that as far as your systems, and today was focused on the defensive part of the game, which is the most important.”
– Colin Fraser to Jon Rosen, LA Kings Insider
Left-winger Andy Andreoff is trying to do the same, working to earn a place on the side where Kings need all the depth they can get. Overall, it puts the Kings in a much more exciting place than I realized. Solid active roster talent has stuck around and several potentially awesome rookies are waiting to produce.
…You know, as long as no more players forget they’re in the middle of a game and just start watching on the ice again.
Tonight, preseason play kicks off with split squad games against the Phoenix-eventually-Arizona Coyotes at both STAPLES Center and Jobing.com Arena. The most significant trade the Coyotes made during the offseason was to acquire center Mike Ribeiro, which means the Coyotes probably still mostly suck otherwise.
Ribeiro demonstrating how he plans to carry the entire Phoenix team.
More importantly, the games will give Kings players a chance to begin getting reacquainted with checking and playing at game pace, really showing who’s ready to claim a roster spot this year.