After a flurry of moves this offseason, the LA Kings depth chart has NHL players and prospects jockeying for position.
The LA Kings front office heard what Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty said in their year-end exit interviews and acted swiftly. Just as the calendar flipped to July, the Kings and Predators hooked up in a trade, sending scoring winger Viktor Arvidsson to Los Angeles for two draft picks.
In the opening hours of the NHL’s free agency period, the Kings also locked up forward Phillip Danault and defenseman Alex Edler. The former developed into an elite defensive forward during his tenure with Montreal, thriving in defensive zone starts. He’ll be expected to take some of the load off Kopitar, so the Kings captain can, hopefully, produce a little more offensively.
And Edler is a veteran looking for a change of scenery after spending the first 15 years of his career in Vancouver. He’ll be a valued addition to the left side of the defense, where the Kings have a ton of youth needing a mentor to aid in their development.
With the additions, though, the Kings roster is that much more jam-packed, and, in some areas, it’s difficult to envision where the young talent in the prospect pool fits without moving pieces off the NHL roster. For that reason, it’s worth looking at Los Angeles’ organizational depth chart.
Up first, the offensive side of the puck.
|Dustin Brown||$5.9M (2022)||36|
|Alex Iafallo||$4.0M (2025)||27|
|Trevor Moore||$1.9M (2023)||26|
|Carl Grundstrom||$725K (2022)||23|
|Brendan Lemieux||$1.6M (2022)||25|
|Vladimir Tkachev||$925K (2022)||25|
|Aidan Dudas||$786K (2023)||21|
|Brayden Burke||$750K (2022)||24|
Dustin Brown’s days of playing on the top line with Anze Kopitar are dwindling as the 36-year-old enters his final season under contract. That said, I have the heart and soul of this team atop the left-winger depth chart until proven otherwise. The Ithaca, New York, native has spent the bulk of his career on the right wing. But with the addition of Viktor Arvidsson, Brown can shift to the left side — a side he spent a considerable amount of time during the 2017-18 season when Tyler Toffoli was still in the mix for RW1 duties.
He [Brown] led the Kings with 17 goals, including nine on the powerplay, in the abbreviated 2021 schedule. Brown may start the year with Kopitar, but he appears destined for second-line or even third-line winger duties at this stage of his career.
Alex Iafallo has firmly established himself as a top-six forward on the Kings lineup, and he was rewarded with a brand new contract in mid-April last year. The former undrafted free agent played really well on a line with Gabe Vilardi and Lias Andersson in a handful of games to close out the 2021 season. Will the trio play together to start the 2021-22 season?
Another player who was recently rewarded with a new contract, Trevor Moore will be a valuable cog in the Kings’ wheel this coming season. Beyond him, though, the LW4 options feel like an open competition in training camp with Carl Grundstrom, Brendan Lemieux, and newly signed Vladimir Tkachev likely all vying for the final spot along the left side.
In the AHL, the Kings have Aidan Dudas, who accumulated six goals and five assists in his first full season with the Reign. However, Reign head coach John Wroblewski noted that Dudas was “a ways off,” still building an identity, so the thought is the young forward could spend the entire 2021-22 season in Ontario. Brayden Burke also comes into the organization as more facilitator than a shooter, logging a sub-3.0% shot rate with Tuscon in 28 games.
|Anze Kopitar||$10M (2024)||33|
|Phillip Danault||$5.5M (2027)||28|
|Gabe Vilardi||$894K (2022)||22|
|Jaret Anderson-Dolan||$747K (2022)||21|
|Blake Lizotte||$800K (2022)||23|
|Quinton Byfield||$894K (2024)||18|
|Alex Turcotte||$894K (2024)||20|
|Rasmus Kupari||$863K (2023)||21|
|Tyler Madden||$925K (2023)||21|
|Akil Thomas||$795K (2023)||21|
|T.J. Tynan||$750K (2022)||29|
|Samuel Helenius||$850K (2024)||18|
Welcome to the world’s best problem. The Kings could ice two teams with the centermen in their prospect pool, and the B squad would arguably still be competitive against NHL teams. The top two forwards are nearly set in stone, with captain Anze Kopitar under contract for three more seasons and newly acquired Phillip Danault in Los Angeles for six [years].
Behind them, the Kings can probably pencil in Gabe Vilardi and Jaret Anderson-Dolan down the middle on the NHL roster. Quinton Byfield, Blake Lizotte, and Rasmus Kupari, among others, will push for playing time. I think, aside from making the postseason, the Kings’ primary goal this year should be to determine who will play wing and who will remain at center.
Of course, that creates a potential log-jam on either side as well, but show me what path exists for Alex Turcotte, Akil Thomas, and Tyler Madden to make the NHL roster as a center without a number of injuries or other players moved off the roster.
Turcotte played a considerable amount of time along the wing in Ontario last season, finding success with Kupari and fellow 2019 draft pick Arthur Kaliyev. It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Turcotte plays along the wing at the next level.
Madden missed a bunch of time last year with injuries, but he returned to play along the wing, accumulating a goal and four assists over a sporadic 14 games. Could Akil Thomas be converted to a winger, too? Los Angeles also signed 29-year-old T.J. Tynan in July, who scored 35 points in 27 games last season, primarily centering the Colorado Eagles. Add in newly drafted and signed Samuel Helenius, and the LA Kings need to have some clarity down the middle by season’s end.
|Viktor Arvidsson||$4.25M (2024)||28|
|Adrian Kempe||$2M (2022)||24|
|Andreas Athanasiou||$2.7M (2022)||27|
|Lias Andersson||$874K (2022)||22|
|Austin Wagner||$1.13M (2023)||24|
|Arthur Kaliyev||$894K (2024)||20|
|Samuel Fagemo||$795K (2023)||21|
|Martin Frk||$725K (2022)||27|
A little bit more clarity than the left wing and center positions, but there is plenty of competition along the right side. Of course, several left-wingers can also play right wing, but for this exercise, let’s assume they are omitted from consideration here.
The top four down the right side at the NHL level would loosely be Viktor Arvidsson, Adrian Kempe, Andreas Athanasiou, and Lias Andersson. That’s also assuming no centers have been moved to the wing. Still with me?
Arvidsson was brought in to help the LA Kings score more goals. The 28-year-old tallied 10 goals and 15 assists in 50 games last year. He also registered the second-lowest shooting percentage (6.6%) of his career. In a Kings offense where head coach Todd McLellan will be relying on him to shoot more often, especially if he’s playing alongside Anze Kopitar, I envision a big year for Arvidsson.
Kempe’s inconsistencies will be put to the test. He was on pace to post career-best numbers had the season stretched out to 82 games. Now he’ll need to prove 2021 was no fluke. The 24-year-old is also entering a contract year, so Kempe has a little extra motivation to perform well.
Outside of Athanasiou and Andersson, Austin Wagner will compete for playing time if he’s not moved prior to the start of the regular season. The 24-year-old speedster hasn’t replicated the numbers posted in his rookie season, and his time may be up. He’s signed to a team-friendly contract, so perhaps the Kings can get a mid-round pick for Wagner if a team is desperate for forward depth in training camp.
In Ontario, the LA Kings have three players knocking on the door in Arthur Kaliyev, Samuel Fagemo, and Martin Frk. Last year, the latter was expected to have a meaningful role at the NHL level, but he was hurt in the Kings vs. Kings exhibition game. In his first game back, he exited early with the same injury and finished out the year in Ontario. Will the Kings give Frk another look, or has that ship sailed?
Kaliyev is a pure shooter, one that can find the smallest of windows to place the puck. The Kings need a guy like that, but the knock on him has repeatedly been his defense and skating. Still, the 20-year-old led the Reign with 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points in 2021. He also played in one NHL game, scoring in the contest as well. Look for Kaliyev to have a bigger role with the Kings in the upcoming season.
And Fagemo was injured for a period of time last season, limiting him to 32 games. Still, the 21-year-old tallied 10 goals and eight assists over that time. Perhaps the 2022-23 season is when Fagemo claims a full-time role at the NHL level, with Athanasiou among the notable players the Kings could part with in free agency.
The Kings are loaded offensively. Having the best prospect pool in the NHL, one that is top-heavy with forwards, is a good problem to have. Add Arvidsson and Danault to the roster, and there are log-jams everywhere you look. However, the LA Kings have several players with expiring contracts after the 2021-22 season, with most becoming restricted free agents.
Also, consider the unsigned prospects in players like Kasper Simontaival, Martin Chromiak, Alex Laferriere, and Francesco Pinelli, among others; the Kings front office will eventually have to determine who stays and who is part of a trade package for established assets that help the team get closer to another Stanley Cup.