LA Kings Anze Kopitar

Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) hugs right wing Dustin Brown (23) after Brown scored an empty-net goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the third period on Dec. 3, 2017.(Matt Marton / Associated Press)

LA Kings look to veterans for leadership

Veterans on the LA Kings are no strangers to the intensity and pressure of a playoff hunt. The youngsters on the team, however, have never experienced anything like the tenacity and focus needed to reach and eventually participate in postseason play.

Players like Mikey Anderson, Tobias Bjornfot, Quinton Byfield, Sean Durzi, and Arthur Kaliyev will all be in a new position this year, being in the middle of the NHL playoff race. Mikey Anderson leads this group in NHL games played with 104. All the others have played less than 100 career games so far.

Even goaltender Cal Petersen and reliable defenseman Matt Roy have never been on a Kings’ team that was even close to having a shot at the playoffs, so this will be new territory for them as well. 

Now, this is not to say that these players have never participated in big games throughout their careers, but the NHL playoff push is on a different level. And the bigger the stage, the more mental and physical challenges. 

The good news, however, is that the LA Kings have an embattled group of veterans who can fill in the experience gap potentially felt by the younger players. Many of the elder statesmen on the team have not only earned respect by their continued competitive play but also from the simple fact that their names have been engraved on the Stanley Cup, not just once but twice in Kings’ uniforms.

Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick can both help the Kings on the ice as well as off by guiding this group through the drive for the playoffs. Having the veterans lead by example through the stress of the race will make a difference not only this season but will pay dividends in the future as well. 

Also, this years’ roster additions of Philip Danault, Viktor Arvidsson, and Alex Edler will be invaluable in the overall mentorship of their new and less seasoned teammates. They have all had extensive familiarity with playoff runs and how to sustain a high level of play throughout.

It may be hard to believe, but today’s group of veterans were once no different than the Kings’ youngest players. They were also new to the stress that comes from playing meaningful games down the stretch, and it was then players like Justin Williams, Willie Mitchell, and Matt Greene that helped them navigate the challenges that come from playing critical games.  

The torch is now being passed to the next generation of mentors who will help guide the Kings’ future postseason success.

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