The Kings have one of the youngest and most fluctuant organizations in the NHL, as well as five players firmly into their 30s who could surge or fizzle this season. Here are several Kings to keep an eye on as the 2021-22 campaign progresses.
Byfield was drafted No. 2 overall before last season, but unlike top pick Alexis Lafreniere with the Rangers and No. 3 selection Tim Stutzle in Ottawa, Byfield did not spend most of last season in the NHL. Byfield played just six NHL games, as opposed to their combined 109 out of a possible 112, and now Kings fans will have to summon more patience as Byfield recovers from a broken ankle. Kings coach Todd McLellan is one of many observers convinced that the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder will be well worth the wait.
Tkachev took a sinewy path to the NHL before signing a one-year deal with the Kings. Now, he is poised to make his debut some eight years after becoming draft-eligible. He had an earlier contract with the Edmonton Oilers voided by a technicality, and he then returned to his native Russia. Tkachev posted 80 points in 100 games in the past two Kontinental Hockey League seasons, and despite being undersized he has more than held his own in the NHL this preseason. Tkachev, redemption story Lias Andersson and the talented but still largely inexperienced Gabe Vilardi have been competing alongside one another, and could all be emergent forces for the Kings.
CAL PETERSEN and JONATHAN QUICK
Ages: Petersen (25) and Quick (35)
Petersen appeared to separate himself somewhat last season and he signed a five-year, $25 million contract extension afterward, signaling a changing of the guard in goal. But Quick has regained some momentum of late, meaning he could earn a greater portion of starts this season. Contractually speaking, the Kings will be on the hook for $10.8 million against the salary cap for the two goalies in 2022-23, giving them one of the pricier tandems in the league despite a largely unremarkable performance in net. Petersen’s ability to develop his game at a solid pace and Quick’s potential to rebound could impact roster decisions and salary cap health in the not-so-distant future.
Brought in this offseason along with defenseman Alex Edler, 35, and center Phillip Danault, 28, Arvidsson was part of a group intended to add experience and allow some younger players to snap into more suitable roles. While Edler’s age and Danault’s expanded role with the Kings present intriguing questions, Arvidsson could be the biggest boom-or-bust acquisition. On one hand, the principle of regression to the mean would indicate he should improve considerably upon his 6.6 shooting percentage last season (his career percentage is 11.4), and his game suits McLellan’s aggressive system. Arvidsson plays a confrontational style that can beat defenders to create or propel a rush, gets him to the front of the net and gives the Kings a shoot-first player, something they mostly lacked last season. On the other hand, his production is declining and injuries have mounted despite still being in his 20s. Time will tell if he was a bitcoin or a $300 bill.
ANZE KOPITAR, DREW DOUGHTY and DUSTIN BROWN
Ages: Kopitar (34), Doughty (31) and Brown (36)
Positions: Center, defenseman and winger
The most pressing questions about the Kings are related: will their rebuilding effort sync up with the useful years of their top veterans and, given their abundance of young talent, does that matter at all? Brown will soon turn 37, Kopitar is 34 and at 31 Drew Doughty has considerable mileage on his body, having entered the league at 18 and played through three deep playoff runs and in two Olympic tournaments. Meanwhile, the Kings’ other primary players of interest are still college-aged. After resurgent first halves, the production for all three veterans fell off a cliff last season, despite a shortened campaign with reduced travel. How much the Kings can get out of their mainstays and for how long could determine their fate in the near future as much as the development of younger, less predictable players will.