For a team like the LA Kings that struggles to score goals, the options from a fantasy hockey standpoint can be slim. Though, with Adrian Kempe coming off of a breakout season in 2021-22 and the addition of Kevin Fiala, there are some intriguing names to keep an eye on in LA.
Per FantasyPros Average Draft Position (ADP), Anze Kopitar is still the first LA Kings player off the board at pick 72 overall (the 21st center being taken). The 35-year-old center remains the Kings’ top centerman, averaging over 20 minutes a night, and is likely to be flanked by Kempe and Fiala in what could be a dynamic trio.
Kopitar finished last season with 19 goals, 48 assists, and 67 points. He’s consistently been a 60+ point producer, and with the wingers he’s expected to start the season with, we could see him eclipse the 70-point mark for the first time since 2017-18.
Five times in his career he has picked up 20 or more assists on the power play. With the addition of Fiala, sharp-shooters like Kempe and Arthur Kaliyev, along with new assistant coach Jim Hiller at the helm, an improved Kings’ power play could see Kopitar push for 30 power play points.
If you’re in a league that rewards faceoffs, Kopitar’s posted 55% or better each of the last four seasons, including 56.9% in 2021-22. He also had a career-high 71 blocked shots last season.
Kopitar should provide steady production at both even strength and the power play, making him a player worth rostering in virtually all formats.
Fiala is coming off career highs in goals (33), assists (52), and points (85). The expectation is he will play with Kopitar on the Kings’ top line and, more than likely, the top power play. Historically, he’s never been an elite power play producer, never once hitting the 20-point mark with the man advantage. It remains to be seen how Fiala will be utilized in what will be a new-look Kings power play.
Another category Fiala saw a career-high in was shots on goal. His 262 shots were the first time he hit the 200 mark and far exceeded his previous career high of 187.
A creative playmaker, Fiala’s 31 primary assists in 2021-22 were top-25 in the NHL among forwards (via MoneyPuck).
Right now, Fiala is going around pick 145 on average. For someone who has 80-point potential, this could be great value in all league sizes.
In 2021-22, Kempe set career highs in goals (35), points (54), shots on goal (247), and, perhaps not coincidentally, average time on ice (18:35). The latter isn’t going to change. Kempe earned himself a fresh four-year contract paying him an average of $5.5 million and is firmly slotted in next to Kopitar on the top line.
The next evolution in Kempe’s game could come from the power play. He’s been a modest power play producer the past couple of seasons (16 points last season and 14 the season prior), but as mentioned above, there are reasons for optimism with the 2022-23 Kings power play.
The 6’2″ winger will also chip in in the hits department, picking up 111 last season. Of the 29 players that scored 35 goals or more, only six of them contributed triple digits in the hits department.
Assuming he can continue on this trajectory, Kempe is worth rostering in all leagues.
Arvidsson is another player that should contribute in a handful of categories if he can stay on the ice. There are questions as to whether or not he will be ready to start the season after undergoing surgery for a herniated disc in May.
When on the ice, however, Arvidsson is a player that can contribute with goals, assists, and shots on goal. In just 66 games last season, he scored 20 goals and 29 assists to go along with 227 shots. The expectation is he will play on a line again with Phillip Danault and Trevor Moore in what was a very productive second line last season.
At 5-on-5 last season, the Swedish winger was 7th in the NHL in scoring chances per 60 minutes, 13th in high danger chances per 60, and 9th in Corsi-for per 60 (among players with at least 500 minutes of ice time, via Natural Stat Trick).
Other forwards of note
- Arthur Kaliyev – the young sniper could be propelled into a bigger role this season. He scored 14 goals in a fourth-line role last year but could see time alongside Quinton Byfield on the third line, as well as power play time. Right now, he’s one to watch in deeper (14+ teams) leagues but monitor him in shallower leagues if he’s getting top power play minutes.
- Carl Grundstrom – if the ice time is there (i.e. third line) and you’re playing in a league where ‘hits’ is a category, Grundstrom could be a nice option. He was top-20 in Hits-per-60 minutes last season (per Natural Stat Trick) and, depending on his role, could also chip in 20-30 points.
- Quinton Byfield – he’s expected to start the season as the third center. While an exciting prospect, I’m not sure there’s a lot of fantasy value in him for 2022-23, but you could do worse for a late-round stash in a deeper league.
Drew Doughty was well on his way to having his best season since the 2017-18 campaign before he suffered a season-ending injury after just 39 games. That said, he picked up 24 assists and 31 points in those 39 games, including nine assists and 13 points on the power play.
The 32-year-old blueliner will be healthy to start the season and should hop right back into his 25-minutes per night responsibilities. He’ll also be back atop the LA Kings’ top power play unit (which, if you’ve made it this far, I’m expecting to be much improved).
In terms of ADP, Doughty is going around pick 82 and is the 22nd defenseman off the board. Assuming health, he’s certainly capable of putting up top-15 fantasy numbers from the back end.
After the injury to Doughty, someone needed to fill the PP1 role in LA. Enter Sean Durzi. It was a breakthrough season for the 23-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick. After scoring 16 points in 13 AHL games to start the season, Durzi picked up 24 assists and 27 points, including 13 power play assists in his debut season in the NHL.
The elephant in the room is that Durzi is still without a contract. The RFA has yet to come to an agreement with the Kings, though all expectations are the two sides will get this done.
Assuming Durzi does sign, he is the top candidate to grab PP2 duties. We don’t know yet who will be on which power play unit for the Kings, but it’s reasonable to assume Durzi could see power play time with the likes of Danault, Byfield, Arvidsson, and Trevor Moore.
While the offense is the name of Durzi’s game, he was the top Kings defenseman in shots-blocked per 60 minutes.
He’s only a reserve option in 10-12 team leagues, but in deeper leagues, he should be rostered.
Other defensemen of note
- Jordan Spence – another exciting rookie last season, Spence picked up eight points in 24 NHL games. He was nearly a point-per-game player in what was also his rookie AHL season (42 points in 46 games). He’s likely to start the season with the Ontario Reign, but keep him on your watch list if you’re in deep leagues. If there are any injuries to the blue line, he could play a factor.
- Brandt Clarke – The 19-year-old is one of the top offensive-defenseman prospects in the NHL. If he makes the team, it’s because the LA Kings will be looking to utilize his offense from the back end, which could mean PP2 time.
In what was supposed to be the year that Cal Petersen took over the starting job, Jonathan Quick refused to give up the crease. After three straight sub-par seasons, Quick bounced back with a .910 save percentage while picking up 23 wins.
Quick will be 37 in January, and if the Kings had their preference, they probably wouldn’t want him starting 46 games again. It’s very conceivable that he’s a steady netminder, but the volume just may not be there from a fantasy standpoint.
This is a big year for the 27-year-old netminder. After signing a three-year, $15 million deal that kicks in this season, Petersen struggled in 2021-22. After boasting a .919 save percentage in his first three NHL seasons (50 total starts), he put up a pedestrian .895 save percentage last season in 37 appearances.
The LA Kings expect him to be the number one goaltender sooner rather than later. If we start to see Petersen perform to the levels prior to last season, he is on a good team that is known for controlling the puck possession battle. 55 to 60 starts for Petersen could be valuable and, particularly in deeper leagues, could be a steal where he’s likely to go at the back end of the draft.
At this point, neither LA Kings’ netminder will be your number one goaltender coming out of drafts.
Main Photo Credit: NHLPA.com