The Los Angeles Kings have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs the last two seasons. And the last two seasons have ended the exact same way. After a hard-fought battle, the Edmonton Oilers proved too much and sent the Kings home. This summer, Los Angeles general manager Rob Blake hopes he constructed a team that can get over the hump.
The Kings made some interesting moves this summer. Without a doubt, the most notable of these moves was the trade for Pierre-Luc Dubois. Dubois comes over from the Winnipeg Jets, where he established himself as a potential top-line center in the NHL.
That trade creates some discussion, which we'll get into later. But the main thing is that the Kings have signaled their intention to compete with the best this upcoming season. So let's take a larger look at the Los Angeles Kings before the puck drops on the regular season in October.
Quinton Byfield's role
The Kings took Quinton Byfield with the second overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. And at the time, many believed he had the potential to anchor any team's top line. However, he hasn't had the best go of things since hearing his name called. A lot of that isn't really his fault, but questions of his true potential are still being asked.
Byfield has shown glimpses of the potential he displayed in his draft year. And he did improve his point total this year while playing 15 more games. Byfield should see a more prominent role this year, which could lead to a breakout season.
Now, Byfield is only 21 years old. He has more than enough time to figure things out at the next level. But if he breaks out this season, then the Kings have a strong center-ice tandem for years to come. And it could further their Stanley Cup window as a result.
Gamble in goal
The Kings had goaltending issues last season, which they needed to address. They did that in a rather bold way, trading franchise icon Jonathan Quick to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a package for Vladislav Gavrikov and Joonas Korpisalo. This summer presented the team with another opportunity to upgrade their goaltending, and the route they went was interesting.
Korpisalo left, signing with the Ottawa Senators. Los Angeles had the opportunity to sign Frederik Andersen or Tristan Jarry, but that didn't happen. The Kings also didn't swing big for Connor Hellebuyck or take a flier on John Gibson.
The Kings decided against all of those options for a bit of a gamble. Veteran Cam Talbot signed a one-year contract to form a tandem with Pheonix Copley in goal. Talbot struggled with injuries last year while playing with the Senators. But he has shown the ability to be a workhorse in the past. He even once played 73 games in one season.
Of course, he won't do that in Los Angeles. He will carry some of the load, though, and it is imperative that the Kings hold down the fort in goal if they want to succeed. If Talbot returns to form, Los Angeles is in good shape. But if he doesn't, the team may be in trouble this upcoming season.
Is Dubois the future?
The Kings didn't make a major swing for Hellebuyck in part because of Pierre-Luc Dubois. Los Angeles paid a rather hefty price for Dubois. And they gave him quite the contract extension as part of the trade. Rob Blake certainly views Dubois as the team's center of the future, and whether that rings true should be seen this season.
Kings captain Anze Kopitar is in the twilight of his career. The 36-year-old is still rather effective these days, and is coming off a 74-point season. Acquiring Dubois, who is much younger and has more potential, makes a lot of sense. But there are still questions to be had.
Dubois has three 60+ point seasons under his belt so far. But he has never gone past 65 points. In fact, his career high is the 63 points he scored this past season. Placing him on a better team with a better-supporting cast should allow Dubois to really breakout. However, that's easier said than done.
At the end of the day, this trade will define Rob Blake's tenure at the helm in Los Angeles. And it'll be interesting to see how Dubois performs in Los Angeles now and in future seasons to come.
Potential odd men out
Forward Jaret Anderson-Dolan could find himself on the roster bubble this season. The 24-year-old has filled a role on the bottom six for Los Angeles in the last few seasons. However, the Kings have better options available on the roster. And since the team is in win-now mode, they may be more willing to go with a veteran option instead of taking a chance on a younger player.
On the blueline, Andreas Englund is firmly on the roster bubble. The Kings are likely to welcome highly-rated prospect Brandt Clarke to the NHL this upcoming season. Furthermore, Tobias Bjornfort is ready for a return to a full-time role in the NHL, as well. Both these two have potential that cannot be ignored and could also represent immediate upgrades over Englund.
Final roster projection
Forwards: Quinton Byfield, Anze Kopitar, Adrian Kempe, Kevin Fiala, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Arthur Kaliyev, Trevor Moore, Philipp Danault, Viktor Arvidsson, Carl Grundstrom, Blake Lizotte, Trevor Lewis
Defensemen: Mikey Anderson, Drew Doughty, Vladislav Gavrikov, Matt Roy, Tobias Bjornfort, Brandt Clarke
Goalies: Cam Talbot, Pheonix Copley