Sunday, September 4, 2011

Los Angeles Kings 2011-12 Preview

Can these dangerous Los Angeles Kings win the tough Western Conference? 


Last year, the Los Angeles Kings entered the year with a great deal of optimism. A young core was supposed to take the next step, but mid-season struggles and a first round exit against the Sharks sealed the same fate (a first round exit) for the second straight year.

This year, the Kings will begin the season with Dustin Penner, and newly acquired Mike Richards and Simon Gagne. Sure, they lost Ryan Smyth, Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, but they’re better off up front this year.


On defense, the Kings still boast one of the top duos of young defenders in the league in Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson. They are complimented by Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi as shutdown defenders.

In net, the Kings will have a competition between Jonathan Bernier and Jonathan Quick. Pushing each other should ensure quality goaltending, and give the team options should one goalie struggle.


For the season on the whole, the Kings look to be more competitive than last season, especially with Mike Richards centering the team’s second line.


The Kings should compete with the Sharks for the division title, and be a top 5 seed in the West.



Forwards

The Kings will boast two solid scoring lines this season, with size, skill and grit..

Anze Kopitar

Kopitar is arguably the Kings most dynamic offensive threat. Centering the team’s top line, his best year is yet to come. Expect 80 points this year and maybe more. 30 goals are also entirely within reach.

Mike Richards

The big newcomer hopes to make a significant impact for the Kings. His two-way play will be a boon for the silver and black, and he could turn in 65-70 points. Richards may be reunited with former teammate Simon Gagne, so fears of acclimatizing should be minimal.

Dustin Brown

The Kings captain is a well-rounded performer. One of the NHL’s hit leaders also can record about 30 goals and 60 points. Those totals should be attainable this season once again.

Justin Williams

Williams is one of those talented complimentary players who makes stars better. Williams worked well with Eric Staal in Carolina, and works well on the Kings alongside Anze Kopitar, and the larger forwards.

Somewhat injury prone, he can tease you with his skills. 70 points are possible, but anticipating some injuries, let’s scale him back to 50-55.

Simon Gagne

Speaking of injury prone, and talented wingers who compliment stars, Simon Gagne lands in Los Angeles to bring his offensive flair to the Kings. A speedy player with 70-80 point potential, he usually misses some time, so 50-60 points should be all you can expect. Anything else is a bonus.

Dustin Penner

The big, streaky winger teases fantasy owners with his talent and size, but puts up inconsistent numbers. On a team loaded with talent up front, Penner could find himself with talented line mates, but will be on a short leash. 45 points is a good bet.

Jarret Stoll

Stoll is a versatile player who can play on any line, at any forward position, and even man the point on the power play. His booming shot always makes him a threat. However, there is a lot of depth up front for the Kings, so expect 40 points from Stoll this season.

Andrei Loktionov

The Russian rookie acquitted himself well last year in a late season call-up. This time out, Loktionov may be able to earn himself a permanent role with the team. Playing on the third line or better could see him reel in 30+ points.

Defence

Drew Doughty

One of the best, most well-rounded defenders in the game, Doughty took a slight step back last year after a concussion. Still, he is one of the top minute men in the NHL, and is one of the best all around players in the league. Expect a bounce-back season. Expect 55 points at least.
 

Jack Johnson
Johnson emerged last season and showcased his excellent skating and unlocked some of his offensive potential. A steal from Carolina, Johnson will continue to emerge. 45-50 points should be the expectation.

Goaltending

Jonathan Quick 

 Quick posted career best numbers in most categories last year, but was pressed more from rookie goalkeeper Jonathan Bernier. Quick is a solid goalie who is developing nicely, but he may be rested more in favour of Bernier. If Quick struggles, he’ll have a short leash.

Prediction - 30 Wins


Jonathan Bernier

Bernier posted very solid numbers in limited action last year. This season, he may take more time from starter Jonathan Quick.

Prediction - 17 wins


TOP SLEEPER

Drew Doughty 


It may be hard to argue that Doughty is a sleeper, but given his hype two seasons ago when he posted career-high numbers and was a standout on Canada’s Olympic team, he may fly under the radar a bit this year.


Considering how young he is, you’d have to imagine his best years are ahead of him. Not only that, but a disappointing year last season may drop him on some people’s draft lists. Do not be fooled by the point totals and take him right near the top of any list of defensemen.


TOP ROOKIE

F-Andrei Loktionov

Loktionov is a bit under-sized, but acquitted himself well during his late season try out with the big club. Posting 7 points in 19 games is not bad for a rookie, and his 31 points in 33 games for his AHL club further demonstrates his potential.

With the departure of some of the Kings’ role players, Loktionov could get a long look this season.


Potential Breakout Player

Jack Johnson


The speedy rear-guard posted solid numbers last season, and that may be only the tip of the iceberg.


A staple on the Kings shoot-out list, and a dangerous player at both ends of the ice, Johnson established himself last year.


This time out, he may take yet another step, with a strong supporting cast and another year of maturity under his belt.


Draft Johnson with the expectation of 45-50 points, and anticipate him putting up those numbers for years to come. 





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