The Los Angeles Kings have experienced disappointment in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the last two seasons. Not only that, but it's essentially been the same song and dance for them. They take on Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers in the first round. And after a hard-fought series, they just can't overcome the Oilers.
General manager Rob Blake set out to change his team's fortunes this summer. He made a major swing on the trade front, acquiring Pierre-Luc Dubois from the Winnipeg Jets. It came at a major cost, and it could end up as the trade that defines Blake's tenure at the helm in Los Angeles.
The Kings are looking to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year. They haven't done that since 2014, which is coincidentally the last time they hoisted the Stanley Cup. Los Angeles just needs to put it all together this season. With all this in mind, here are three bold predictions for the Los Angeles Kings ahead of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Quinton Byfield finally arrives
Former second-overall pick Quinton Byfield has had some horrible luck since hearing his name called in 2020. He has struggled with injuries since then. And he has never really hit his strides when healthy. This season, things could change.
Byfield figures to skate alongside Adrian Kempe and Anze Kopitar. It's a major opportunity for the young forward. It represents a chance at playing first-line minutes with two of the team's most productive players.
Byfield may not score the craziest amount of points this upcoming season. But he should find his stride in the NHL all the same. Kopitar will certainly provide valuable advice, and skating with Kempe should help his point total in a major way.
Adrian Kempe scores 50
Kempe has emerged as one of the best goal-scorers on the Kings roster. The 27-year-old scored 35 goals in 2021-22 before following it up with a wild 41-goal campaign this past season. These totals are well above his previous career high of 16 goals. And what's even wilder is that Kempe is just getting started.
Kempe will skate with Byfield and Kopitar on the first line this upcoming season. The Swedish forward also figures to receive a ton of time on the top power play unit in Los Angeles. All of this will result in the 27-year-old ending the 2023-24 season with at least 50 goals.
Scoring 50 goals is a difficult feat no matter who you are. Five players surpassed the mark last season, with four of them scoring more than 100 points on the season. The last player to score 50 or more for the Kings in a single season was Luc Robitaille in 1992-93.
Kempe certainly won't sleepwalk to 50 goals, but the talent around him is legit. The 27-year-old has all the opportunity in the world. If the Kings live up to their expectations, don't be surprised if Kempe passes 50 goals.
Pierre-Luc Dubois hits the century mark
As mentioned earlier, the trade and eight-year extension for Pierre-Luc Dubois could certainly be the move that defines Rob Blake's tenure as general manager of the Kings. The expectation is that Dubois will eventually become the top-line center once Anze Kopitar retires. This season, he should more than prove that he's ready for the role.
Dubois has never scored more than 65 points in a single season. But the potential is certainly there for him to do more. Playing with a better-supporting cast will help the 25-year-old absolutely explode this upcoming season.
Dubois will score 100 or more points in 2023-24. Playing with Kevin Fiala on his wing will prove to be a major help. He could also find time on the team's top power play unit alongside Fiala, Kopitar, and Kempe. All of this creates a perfect storm that should result in Dubois finally establishing himself as a worthy top-line point producer in the NHL.