The LA Kings are just over halfway through the 2021-22 NHL season and are starting to show signs of improvement from years past. They find themselves firmly in the mix for a playoff spot for the first time since the 2017-18 season. Off-season additions, impressive rookie play, and a breakout season from Adrian Kempe have led fans to believe this team is trending in the right direction. And talk of the rebuild may now be in the rearview mirror.
Let’s take a look at how each LA Kings player has fared this season by handing out some mid-season report cards. For this exercise, I looked at players with at least ten games played with LA this season.
Lias Andersson: C-
There was a lot of excitement surrounding Lias Andersson to start the year. During the preseason, the trio of Tkachev, Vilardi, and Andersson was one of the more exciting ones to watch. Unfortunately, Lias’s injury to the end of the warm-up slate of games seemed to all but destroy the chemistry the three had quickly created.
Since then, Andersson has bounced back and forth from the press box to the lineup, only playing in 13 games this season. With one assist in the few games he’s been featured in, the Kings were hoping to see a little more from a player they acquired for a second-round pick in 2020.
Andreas Athanasiou: B-
I was caught off guard when the Kings re-signed AA during the offseason. After Athanasiou made his season debut with the team in November, my reluctance was put to bed, scoring five points in his first four games with the Kings. Playing alongside Phillip Danault and Alex Iafallo, AA’s speed perfectly complemented the other two, and that line was the best in the Kings lineup for quite a few games.
After the hot start for Athanasiou, he has since gone through many hurdles. At the end of November, he was placed in Covid protocol forcing him to miss a few games. Once he returned, he suffered an undisclosed injury which has caused a placement on the injured reserve. He has yet to play a game since December 14th, but the Kings are hopeful of getting him back during the current road trip.
Carl Grundstrom: C
It’s been a tough road for Carl Grundstrom to find a regular spot in the lineup. With the plethora of rookies added to the roster almost every week, the young grinder has been unable to solidify a role with the club. Though he’s not looked on to produce much offensively, he has shown a flash of scoring capability.
With nine points in 29 games played with the LA Kings this season, Grundstrom is only two points shy of his career-high of 11 from last year. It’ll be interesting to see how the Kings use him for the second half of the season.
Brendan Lemieux: B+
Brendan Lemieux has been an excellent addition to the LA Kings’ bottom six. His aggressiveness and agitating skillset quickly turned him into a fan favorite in LA. But it isn’t just his intensity. His 1.27 goals per 60 minutes during 5v5 play are second on the team only to Adrian Kempe.
After a five-game suspension for his biting incident with Brady Tkachuk, Lemieux has found some good chemistry with Blake Lizotte and Arthur Kaliyev on the fourth line. They have been able to provide some much-needed depth scoring for the Kings.
Blake Lizotte: B
Blake Lizotte is doing exactly what is being asked of him as the LA Kings’ fourth-line center. He is driving play and preventing opportunities for the other team. His newfound chemistry with Lemieux and Kaliyev has created a depth scoring option for Todd McLellan.
What isn’t lost in Lizzote’s play is his ability to keep pucks alive and be a pest in the offensive zone. With Quinton Byfield presumably in the mix for the rest of the season, we’ll see if Blake can continue his elevated play and show a reason to stay with the Kings next season.
Trevor Moore: A-
Throughout the season, Trevor Moore has been in constant movement all around the LA Kings lineup. At times on the top line alongside Anze Kopitar for a look. His versatility isn’t lost on Head Coach Todd McLellan. But now, he’s found a home playing alongside Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson.
Moore has thrived since being placed on the second line. His speed and forechecking ability are evident night in and night out. In the last ten games with the Kings playing with Danault and Arvidsson, he has 12 points.
Olli Maatta: C-
It’s been tough to watch Olli Maatta struggle in his time with the LA Kings. As long as he limits his mistakes, he can be a viable depth option. The problem is, the mistakes keep happening.
Rob Blake probably wasn’t looking at Maatta being a consistent starter on the left side of LA’s defense. But with the loss of Alex Edler long-term, that is exactly what he’s been. We’ll see if he stays there past the trade deadline.