In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 30th
- Goals for Rank: 30th
- Goals against Rank: 22nd
- PP Rank: 27th
- PK Rank: 29th
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 29th
- Western Conference Standings: 14th
- Pacific Division Standings: 7th
- Coach: Todd McLellan (1st season in LA; previously 434-282-90 Regular season and 37-38 Playoff record coaching San Jose and Edmonton)
On offense: I was excited for the Kings this past year as Ilya Kovalchuk alongside Anze Kopitar with Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli sounded like a formidable offense to me. Anze would be the only player who would go on to score over 50 points (on offense at least) and the team as a whole would end up with the 2nd fewest goals in the league. A lot of this came out of lack of generating shots, which they had the third fewest in the NHL. The Kings did not always have the most robust offense but adding Ilya Kovalchuk and getting worse is not what I expected out of this team last year. Ilya, Anze and Jeff should improve but all are also 34 and older and their best years are likely behind them. Some young talent in Blake Lizotte (out of St. Cloud St), Austin Wagner (99th overall pick in 2015 from LAK), Nikolai Prokhorkin (121st overall in 2012 draft) and Carl Grundstrom (from the Jake Muzzin trade) will need to add some infusion of point production as well. I fear that this will be a transitional year where the team continues to struggle to find their chemistry.
Defensively the team still has one of the best defensemen in the league in Drew Doughty. Alec Martinez adds experience to the blue line but the loss of Jake Muzzin to Toronto midseason hurt a bit. The unit allowed the 6th most shots against last year as Los Angeles struggled all around last season. One interesting tidbit, Drew Doughty was the only defensemen who had over 82 shots (or an average of one per game over a full season, something 130 different defensemen did last year). Paul LaDue was promoted and played about a third of the season yielding 5 points in his short stint with 33 shots in 33 games, there is a chance he could provide a bit of help to the defense especially with more than just 13 minutes per game (his usage last season).
In net, Jonathan Quick had his worst career year and it wasn’t even close. He finished last year with a 3.38 GAA and a .888 sv%, he previously had never been above a 3.0GAA nor was he ever below a .900 sv%. I would assume he will rebound quite a bit this season but two things have me concerned. First the defense in front of him that could continue to allow a lot of shots. Second, the whole chemistry and camaraderie on this team was off last year. The resigning of Cal Peterson or general strengths of Jack Campbell have me wondering if this becomes a transitional year from Quick to Peterson.
Behind the bench: John Stevens was coach of the team from the start of the 2017 season until November of 2018. Willie Desjardins stepped in as interim coach until the team hired Todd McLellan in the offseason. Todd had a fantastic record at San Jose posting above .500 records every season; however, in Edmonton, he did it just once in four years. Granted Edmonton has its own issues; but I don’t think he is inheriting the San Jose roster and chemistry right now with this team.
- Dion Phaneuf
Prospects and Picks
Gabriel Vilardi: The 11th overall pick in the 2017 draft was an uncharacteristically high pick for them as of late (highest pick since 2009 when they took Brayden Schenn 5th overall) . He finally saw a few games with the Ontario Reign in the AHL scoring 1 assists in four games. He has great hands and shows decent build to hold his own in the NHL. I’m not sure if he cracks the lineup this year but it wouldn’t be absurd if he did.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Tyler Toffoli: He comes into this season in a contract year. He played all 82 games last year and (for me) put up a disappointing 34 points. He has shown what he is capable of with three seasons above 20 goals and one season above 50 points. He scored at a career low 5.8% last year (typically he’s more in the 10% area) which tells me that his 226 SOG (2nd most in his career) should have yielded more of a 24-25 goal season instead of a 13 goal season that he saw. I think we could see a 25 goal, 50 point player this year IF they keep him in a top six role (which they should).
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$72MM Spent; $8.7M in Cap room; 22 players signed.