The 2021 Los Angeles Kings are surely going to be an interesting and fun bunch to watch. As highlighted in the 2021 Los Angeles Kings Line Projections piece, they have a nice mix of veterans with very good young budding talent. After all, if you have great budding talent, it is key to have those veterans around to be able to show them the ropes. They also have a nice up and coming netminder in Cal Petersen, once he is back from the Covid list. This team certainly has a competitive roster on paper to be one of the league’s sleeper teams. Especially since they are in the West division, which is arguably the easiest.
Goaltending is Key
First and foremost, for any club to be successful, goaltending is key. Once Petersen is back they have a solid tandem in him and franchise legend Jonathan Quick. Until Petersen is back, Troy Grosenick will handle the backup role. For the Kings to be a sleeper team, they will need Petersen to take a leap forward and Quick to continue to bounce back. Petersen in 19 career games has a 2.62 GAA with a .923 SV%. Very good numbers in a cup of coffee career so far. This year is Petersen’s time to shine as veteran Quick isn’t getting any younger.
Moving onto Quick, he had a very down 2018-19 campaign with a 3.38 GAA and .888 SV%. He did bounce back some last year though with a 2.79 GAA and a .904 SV%. For the 2021 Los Angeles Kings to be a sleeper team, they are going to need Quick to keep trending back in the right direction and stay healthy. If they get a productive healthy Quick and a good first full season from Petersen they should have a perfectly capable goalie tandem. This tandem is one to keep an eye on because of young emerging Cal Petersen now paired with the vet Quick. If he takes off the kings will not only have a sleeper team but a very underrated goalie tandem.
2021 Los Angeles Kings Veteran Poise
Even though the 2021 Los Angeles Kings are full of players under the age of 30, they still have a key older core. That veteran core is Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick. This once star core of course brought the Kings their two Stanley Cups. This is a mighty core that is owed much gratitude from fans. Now this aging core, along with performing well themselves, is tasked with helping to nurture the young guns as they make their way into the league. What a great core to have to be able to show the next core of the team the ropes as they make their way into the NHL.
This right here is a pivotal piece of the 2021 Kings if they are going to be able to contend in the West Division. For the Kings to contend, they are going to need guys like Adrian Kempe to step up more. Gabriel Vilardi is going to be called upon a lot in his first full season. As long as he is healthy, there should be no concerns about him stepping up to the plate. Key bottom-six contributor Austin Wagner notched a three-year deal in the offseason. The Kings are certainly expecting him to continue to grow.
Then there are the newcomers. Two new coming top defense prospects that made the team out of camp are Kale Clague and Tobias Bjornfot. The 22-year-old Clague is a quick a crafty offensive-minded defenseman with still-growing defensive consistency. The kings, however, will gladly take productive powerplay minutes from Clague while still growing in 5-on-5 play as well as on the defensive end.
At only 19. Bjornfort is ready to take over a defensive role. He plays a very good, competitive, defensive game while having a smart “take what comes to you” approach. He captained Sweden’s gold medal winning U18 Worlds team and is likely going to take a leadership role in the future as a key piece in the Kings’ next core. The Kings hope both Clague and Bjornfot are able to be a part of their defensive core for years to come. As long as both stay healthy and keep doing what they’re doing there is no reason to think this is not a high possibility.
The Kings are adding two key young defenders into what was already the 14th ranked defense in goals per game. If both Clague and Bjornfot show out in their rookie season this defense can surely be one to reckon with. Especially considering they also brought Olli Maatta into the mix now as well. These three defenders mixed in with Sean Walker, Matt Roy, and of course, Drew Doughty is one of the most underrated defenses coming into the 2021 season.
Super Prospect Duo
The Kings cannot be mentioned without their two great developing top prospects Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte being thrown into the mix. These now teammates faced off in the 2021 World Junior Gold Medal game. It was a game that Turcotte’s USA took 2-0 over Canada. Both performed well in the 2021 World Juniors showing they are right on the cusp of making the NHL. Neither player cracked the opening night roster but fans should not have to wait to long to see these two. Just like Clague and Bjornfot on the back end, the Kings have two future core forwards in Turcotte and Byfield.
Hockey is back and the Kings are poised to have a highly competitive season, especially due to the division they’re in. If the Kings can get good goaltending from the Quick and Petersen tandem while playing the same or improved in front of them, they are already improved. Petersen is at least a high-quality backup behind Quick. However, if the Kings are really going to make an extended surprise run, it’s likely that’ll be because Petersen really emerged. That’s based off of where Quick is at this point of his career.
Captain Anze Kopitar is poised to lead the new wave Kings into a division that, in terms of the fourth spot, is up for grabs. Kopitar and his fellow veteran core mentioned above are going to need to stay healthy and continue to produce at least the same rates for the Kings to surprise as well. For Kopitar and Doughty, that should not be a problem. Brown had a bounce-back season last season so the Kings are going to continue to need him to stay steady. Then For Carter, the main key is health.
As long as the veteran core gels well with guys like Kempe, Vilardi, Lizotte, and, once called up, Turcotte and Byfield, this team is set for a very fun and scrappy competitive season. As long as everything mentioned in this piece falls into place and the Kings have good health, there is no reason to think they cant at least compete for the fourth spot in the West Division.
With this year’s playoff format that spot would put the Kings in the playoffs. Their California counterpart Ducks could have something to say about that though. All in all, playoffs or no playoffs, this team is poised to show a steady improvement in their rebuild this season. The season is here so it’s time to get merry and bright. Enjoy all the hockey everyone.
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