This summer will be a busy one for the LA Kings. They’ll be looking for help from outside the organization and from within.
The 2021-22 season ended a little earlier than expected for the Ontario Reign, bowing out in three games to the Colorado Eagles in Round 2. The LA Kings surprised many by making the playoffs, losing in seven games to the Edmonton Oilers.
As we enter the offseason, changes are on the horizon for both the Kings and the Reign.
We don’t know what additions the LA Kings will make this offseason from outside the organization. That will dictate the likelihood of any of the below players spending time in the NHL. That said, I took a look at four players who could make an impact in LA next season should the opportunity be presented.
1. Jaret Anderson-Dolan
Of all the Ontario Reign players, I think Jaret Anderson-Dolan is the most NHL-ready. It helps that he has 50 games of NHL experience under his belt over the past four seasons. In 2021-22, he played just seven games for the Kings.
He graded out exceptionally well in Sean O’Brien’s Point Shares model:
The Calgary, AB native finished third on the team in points with 47, including 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) on the power play. Only Martin Frk scored more power play goals for Ontario than Anderson-Dolan.
Despite having a firm grip on the fourth-line center role in Los Angeles during the 2020-21 campaign, Anderson-Dolan started the season in Ontario. There, he was able to further develop his game. During his 54 games in Ontario, JAD spent time at both center and the wing, playing on each of the top three lines at various points. Anderson-Dolan was relied upon to play both on the penalty kill and the power play.
The power play is where I think he really elevated his game. As the season settled, Anderson-Dolan spent most of his PP time down low on the top power play unit. His ability to recognize where to make the pass when he received the puck, when to take it to the net himself and when to be a screen/tip option in front of the net was very impressive. Several examples of this can be found here.
His ability to play center or wing, along with what I consider to be a high hockey IQ, allows him to play anywhere in your lineup on even strength or special teams. The Kings don’t need a center, but he can play the wing in the NHL, and with how impressive he looked on the power play in Ontario, I don’t think it’d be out of line to give him an opportunity there in LA.
2. Gabriel Vilardi
After starting the season in Los Angeles, he was sent down to Ontario, in large part to change his position. Vilardi struggled as a center in the NHL, so he began to play the wing while in Ontario.
Vilardi hit the ground running, scoring a goal in his first game and picking up six points in his first five games in the AHL. To me, he became a different player on the wing. He didn’t have to worry as much about playing 200-feet and needing to be a play driving center in all three zones. The 22-year-old was able to play a bit more freely and let his offensive talent take over when in the offensive zone.
In all, Vilardi played 39 games with the Reign, scoring 15 goals and 38 points. He was dangerous with the man advantage, scoring eight goals and 16 points while on the power play. The Reign used Vilardi in a couple of different positions, but his most effective was in the bumper.
In the clip below, Vilardi initially gets the puck on the half-wall and doesn’t force anything. He patiently waits for T.J. Tynan to come over, and after Vilardi leaves it for Tynan, he doesn’t just go to the middle of the slot or the net-front. He recognizes where the traffic is and drops back into a soft area in the high slot, making himself available for Tynan:
Vilardi is talented enough to play in the NHL. He is also smart enough to play on the top power play unit in Los Angeles. While I would have liked to see him get that opportunity, the playoff push was in full effect by the time he was called back up. For Todd McLellan, it wasn’t time to experiment.
From the outside, it seems the organization and Vilardi don’t always see things the same way. It’s possible he is part of a trade package this summer. If not, he could be a productive player in the Kings’ top-six next season.
3. Samuel Fagemo
You don’t have to look too hard to see the value that Samuel Fagemo could bring to the LA Kings. Scoring 27 goals in 63 games for the Reign this season, Fagemo finished in the 95th percentile in goals-per-game in the AHL:
That said, it wasn’t just his offensive game that took a big leap in his second year in the league. He graded out as the best defensive forward per Sean O’Brien’s Point Shares model:
In January, his strong play earned him a call-up, making his NHL debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Swedish winger only played four games, but he was able to get his first taste of NHL action.
The former second-round draft pick tallied nine of his 27 goals on the power play. When Martin Frk was up with the Kings, Fagemo manned the left circle, and he delivered. His power play goal in the Game 1 against San Diego was from just that spot:
Like Vilardi, this is a talented player capable of playing on the power play. Whether or not he can maintain a consistent level of play to stick in the NHL remains to be seen. If he gets the chance to play in LA next season, he has the potential to flourish.
4. Jacob Moverare
Last but not least is another personal favorite, Swedish defenseman Jacob Moverare. There is just something to be said for a calming, steadying influence on the back-end, particularly when you’ve got some offensive-minded defensemen in Drew Doughty, Sean Durzi, and Sean Walker back there.
Moverare won’t wow you on the scoresheet. He managed 10 points in 30 games with the Reign this season. But what he does well in the AHL seamlessly translates to the NHL. He is calm under pressure, has a very good stick in the defensive zone to take space away from opposing forwards, and is capable of making a first pass to start a transition.
Most fans will remember this stretch pass to Trevor Moore in Pittsburgh:
He calmly collects the puck and isn’t afraid of the oncoming pressure. Then, while moving backward, fires a dart to hit Moore in stride just before the far blue line.
Much has been made of the right side of the LA Kings defense, but there are plenty of questions on the left side as well. Mikey Anderson is really the only one with a locked-in spot. We don’t know yet if Alexander Edler or Olli Maatta will be back, and Tobias Bjornfot has had some growing pains early in his career.
The Kings are likely to address the left side of the defense this offseason. Even if they do, there could still be a role for Moverare. I’ve made the loose comparison that he is a left-handed Matt Roy in that he’s quietly effective, and for a team that can strike off the rush, you might be surprised to see the assists total rack up.