After a flurry of moves this offseason, the LA Kings depth chart has NHL players and prospects jockeying for position.
While the LA Kings blueline isn’t quite the logjam that exists among the forwards’ group, there are still a number of players who will find themselves buried on the depth chart to begin the 2021-22 season. With the addition of Alex Edler to the left side of the defense, one of the younger defensemen will be starting the season in Ontario.
|Mikey Anderson||$925K (2022)||22|
|Alex Edler||$3.5M (2022)||35|
|Tobias Bjornfot||$894K (2023)||20|
|Kale Clague||$761K (2022)||23|
|Olli Maatta||$3.3M (2022)||27|
|Christian Wolanin||$750K (2022)||26|
|Jacob Moverare||$750K (2022)||22|
|Markus Phillips||$797K (2022)||22|
The left side is fairly straightforward. Mikey Anderson took a monumental leap forward in the abbreviated 2021 schedule, establishing himself as Drew Doughty‘s partner on the Kings’ top pairing.
“No, I don’t want someone new. I like playing with Mikey Anderson,” Doughty said in his exit interview. “I love playing with Mikey Anderson. We’ve developed quite the partnership. I mean, I don’t think [the Kings] need to bring in anyone in to play with me.”
With Anderson being more of a stay-at-home defenseman, Doughty could do what he does best, and that’s moving the puck up ice while forcing shots on net from the blueline. Both Doughty and Anderson logged league highs in average TOI among all players and rookies, respectively.
We just noted Edler coming into the organization. The 35-year-old notched just eight assists last season, but he’s a year removed 33-point campaign. While he’s not expected to be a 30-plus-point player at this juncture of his career, Edler will serve as a valuable penalty-killer and shot-blocker. The Ostersund, Sweden, native will also be a valuable mentor for a left side full of youth.
One of the more interesting training camp battles will be the final spot on the left side. On paper, Kale Clague and Tobias Bjornfot appear to make the most sense for earning a roster spot. However, the former is no longer waiver exempt, which lends toward the likely notion of Clague making the roster and Bjornfot starting the year in Ontario. Of course, one of them could be the team’s seventh defenseman, but the Kings will have to decide on Olli Maatta. With one year on his deal, will the team carve out a role for Maatta, or will they waive him?
After acquiring him mid-season, the Kings re-signed Christian Wolanin, who played well for Team USA in the World Championships. Between the Kings and Reign, the 26-year-old played in only five games, collecting all three of his assists at the AHL level. He’ll provide valuable defensive depth in the event of an injury.
With Daniel Brickley‘s likely departure in free agency — he remains unsigned as of this writing — Jacob Moverare and Markus Phillips step into increased roles along the left side for the Reign. The latter got his first taste of hockey at the AHL level, accumulating a goal with 14 assists in 26 games.
Phillips, 22, was selected 15 picks after Mikey Anderson in the 2017 NHL Draft, and in his first full season with the Reign, the Port Perry, Ontario, native racked up 10 points in 31 games.
|Drew Doughty||$11M (2027)||31|
|Matt Roy||$3.15M (2024)||26|
|Sean Walker||$2.65M (2024)||26|
|Austin Strand||$771K (2022)||24|
|Sean Durzi||$809K (2022)||22|
|Helge Grans||$870K (2024)||19|
|Jordan Spence||$820K (2024)||20|
|Brandt Clarke||$925K (2024)||18|
There’s no question that the right side of the Kings’ defensive depth chart is a strength. After the top three in Drew Doughty, Matt Roy, and Sean Walker occupying the NHL pairings, the Kings have a number of options should an injury pop up.
Similar to when Los Angeles lost both Walker and Roy in the same game last season, the organization gave Austin Strand a look, and the 24-year-old held his own. The undrafted Calgary, Alberta, native had just one assist in 13 games at the NHL, but he displayed tremendous puck-moving abilities while taking care of the responsibilities defensively.
One guy that I thought for sure was going to get a look last season was Sean Durzi. The 22-year-old is a former second-round pick who came over in the Jake Muzzin deal with Toronto. However, he’s remained roadblocked, accumulating six goals and 28 points in a combined 78 games.
Beyond Durzi, the organization is beaming with talent — so much that it’s difficult to imagine how everyone will achieve playing time with the Kings. Admittedly, not all of them will be part of the next great Kings team, which is something the front office and development staff will have to determine at a later date. Regardless, players like Helge Grans and Jordan Spence, who are both joining the already loaded Ontario Reign for the 2021-22 season, should have everyone excited about the immediate future along the blueline.
In addition, Los Angeles has 2020 second-round pick Brock Faber, who remains unsigned and waiting in the wings. The Maple Grove, Minnesota, native will play at least another year at the University of Minnesota after scoring a goal with 11 assists with a plus-17 in his freshman campaign.
And, of course, Brandt Clarke could be on the fast track to Los Angeles after being selected eighth overall in the 2021 NHL Draft. Drawing comparisons to Drew Doughty’s offensive abilities and vision up-ice, Clarke looks like a future top-pairing defenseman in Los Angeles.
For lack of a better term, the issue is fitting the puzzle pieces together within the next couple of seasons.