Ahead of the Kings’ first of the season on Thursday night against the Vegas Golden Knights, here are 10 things to know about their 2021-22 campaign.
1. Last year … The Kings didn’t start very well, going 13-11-6 in their first 30 games in a tough Pacific Division. He did cut the stretch, however, ending the short season with an 8–17–1 skid to miss the postseason for the third year in a row.
2. Players to watch … Anje Kopitar, who scored a team-high 50 points in a 56-game season last year, took the 1,000-point mark for his career. Drew Doughty has also continued the team’s blue line, after finishing second in the club with 34 points last season. Both these legends were important parts of the last competitive side of the Kings a decade ago. To return to relevance this year, they will need to move on again.
3. In the net … Cal Peterson and Jonathan Quick will create what the Kings hope could be one of the better goalscoring tandems in the league. Peterson, 26, is coming off a successful season in which he posted a .911 saving percentage, starting most of the team’s games, starring for Team USA at the World Championships in the summer and signed on a three-year, $15 million extension . .
4. Behind the Bench … Todd McClellan, who enters his third season in charge. While he is one of the more respected coaches in the league, he will be attempting to bring a club back into the playoffs for the first time since doing so at Edmonton in 2016-17.
5. Biggest Addition … Philippe Danault. The former Montreal Canadiens center should help bolster a forward group that was in need of reinforcements this off-season. While Danault scored only 24 points in 53 games last year, he finished in the top-10 of the Selke Award for the third consecutive year in voting for top defensive forward.
The Kings added other experienced additions in defenseman Alex Adler and winger Viktor Arvidsson – moves that signal the club’s ambition to emerge from its recent rebuilding.
6. Biggest Departure … there are not many. The only regular not to return from last year’s team is defenseman Kurtis McDermid, who was selected by Seattle in the expansion draft. One notable absence from the opening night roster, however, is Quinton Byfield, the No. 2 overall selection from last year’s draft, who fractured his left ankle in the preseason and was ruled out indefinitely.
7. Breakout Star … Gabe Villardi. Another former first-round draft pick, Center ran an up-and-down campaign last year in his first full NHL season. Still only 22, he is part of a future wave of young forwards that also includes Alex Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari and others.
8. KEY STRENGTH … defending his own end. Kings should have strong goalscoring abilities. They have two-sided giants in the center. He has a penalty kill that finished seventh in the NHL last year. And they have a potentially better blue line which also includes young defensemen Mickey Anderson and Tobias Björnfot.
As with all of those factors, much of the Kings’ success will depend on how much they improve defensively after dropping the 11th-most goals in the league last year.
9. Area of concern … scoring, still. While the addition of Danault and Arvidsson, as well as the emergence of more young talent, should have helped, the Kings still return to the same roster that finished fifth to last in scoring last season – the third straight season they finished near the bottom. Eliminated goals in the league.
10. Expectations … are internally optimistic, at least the Kings can push for the playoffs once again and the darkest days of rebuilding are behind them. But they are no lock for him, and are still far from looking like a true title contender.