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Offseason Outlook: Los Angeles Kings

2019-07-11

2018-19 Grade: F (Last year: F)

The Kings’ 2018-19 season was the DCHL equivalent of a soap opera. They limped into the season, only to see their GM quit under the hardships of running a team. Their replacement opted for a full-blown rebuild, and shipped off most of the team’s veteran talent for much-needed draft picks.

Studs:

Despite the rough season, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a respectable campaign. The 26-year old centre registered 28 goals and 65 points in only 69 games, playing with talent well below his level. The talented C might be on the block, and the return could land LA a franchise piece to build around.

Duds:

Even though he only played half a season, LA’s former GM gets dud status this year. Not only did he run the Kings into the ground, he made the ultimate faux pas in trading a future 1st round draft pick when you’re nowhere near contending for a cup.

Keys to Success:

1.    Clean house

Other than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Alex Wennberg, there aren’t a lot of pieces worth keeping around long-term. Fortunately, Alec Martinez and Cody Eakin should hold enough value to return a first-round pick or two. RNH and Wennberg are young enough to be part of a quick-rebuild.

2.    Take advantage of cap space

This time around, the Kings have cap space in droves. With so many other contenders pressed up against the cap, now is the perfect time to take advantage and eat some bad contracts for much needed draft picks.

3.    Maximize any return for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

He is unquestionably the best player on this team. If the Kings are going to trade him, they need to make sure they get the most value possible from him. RNH is a restricted free agent when his contract expires, so whoever acquires him can expect to keep him long-term, driving his value sky high.

Top 3 Prospects:

Cole Caufield – This pint-sized sniper went 15th overall to the Montreal Canadiens in the 2019 NHL draft. While he may be small, his impact on the game is not. Caufield posted 72 goals in his draft year playing with the US National Team Development Program. Projected DCHL Arrival: 2021-22

Mackenzie Blackwood – After an unspectacular start to his AHL season, injuries thrust Blackwood into NHL duty and boy did he deliver. In 21 starts, Blackwood went 10-10-0 and finished the year with a 2.61 GAA and a .918 save percentage. Blackwood has a good chance of claiming the starting role in New Jersey, and at the very least will back up Cory Schneider. Projected DCHL Arrival: 2020-21

Adam Fox – Fox dominated the NCAA circuit this season, posting 9 goals and 48 points in 33 games as a defenseman. The 5’11” righty signed his ELC with the New York Rangers and looks poised to make his debut in the 2019-20 season. Projected DCHL Arrival: 2020-21

2019-20 Outlook:

The Kings are one of those border teams that could go either way next year. With the cap space to make a splash in free agency, as well as decent roster players in RNH, Eakin, Wennberg, Martinez, and Ben Hutton, the Kings could make a push for a playoff spot next season as well. Either way, don’t expect the Kings to challenge for a championship anytime soon.