Image via Michigan Photography

It’s no secret that the LA Kings have had abominable goaltending issues in the 2022-23 NHL season. Los Angeles has had three different goalies start this year, yet no true goaltender has been able to find a rhythm.

Image credit: Jfresh Hockey

The Goalies

Of course, Pheonix Copley has been hot in terms of winning games, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The North Pole native has appeared in 20 NHL games and is 15-3-1. The games won are incredible, seeing how, in essence, he loses once every four wins. His win-to-loss ratio is terrific, but his numbers are average. Copley sits at a .901 save percentage and a 1.1 GSAx. Copley’s average numbers while having a 15-3-1 record proves how even with a middle-class goalie, the LA Kings are capable of vying.

But as we look onwards to the future, the topics in the net are beyond questionable. Jonathan Quick is undeniably the greatest goaltender in LA Kings’ history, but the flame has gone out. Quick has the fourth-worst GSAx in the NHL with -14.5 and has a .881 throughout 27 games. With Quick in net, the Kings are 8-12-4.

Image Credit: MoneyPuck

Kings fans have accepted that Quick isn’t the solution in the net anymore, and goals against like this have ascertained that:

Cal Petersen has had his journey this year, playing in both the NHL and AHL. In the first year of his 15 million dollar deal, he was placed on waivers and cleared them. At the NHL level, he was 5-3-2 and a .868. Down in the AHL, he’s currently 9-7-1 with a .912 save percentage. Frankly, it looks like we’ve seen the last of Cal Petersen with the Los Angeles Kings in the 2022-23 NHL season. The future is unstable and unknown with Petersen.

Additionally, the Kings have an insufficient goaltending prospect pool. It’s far-fetched that any of the few of Juho Markkanen, Matthew Villalta, or Jacob Ingham ever play in the NHL. The 2023 NHL draft is full of high-potential goalies, but it’ll be years before any of them mature. Some of those goalies include Michael Hrabal, Scott Ratzlaff, Carson Bjarnason, and Jacob Fowler.

But that doesn’t mean the LA Kings can’t make a trade to acquire a young, high-potential netminder.

Erik Portillo to the LA Kings?

Jeff Marek of Sportsnet cited in late January that the Buffalo Sabres were unlikely to sign goaltending prospect Erik Portillo. Portillo, a 22-year-old goaltender out of Sweden, has spent the last three years in the NCAA with the Michigan Wolverines. The Sabres drafted Portillo in the third round of the 2019 NHL draft. He was coming off a dominant season in the J20 SuperElit, recording a .931 save percentage with a 21-5-0 record at the draft time. The following season, he played with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL, where he had .915 in 27 games played.

2020-21 was his first year in the NCAA, where he only appeared in seven games, posting a .935 save percentage. The following season, he earned the role of the starter in Michigan. Through 42 NCAA games, Portillo had a whopping .926. At that point, fans realized that Portillo’s NHL potential was becoming more unvarnished by the minute.

This year, Portillo’s numbers have dipped. In 23 games, Portillo has a .909 save percentage with a 3.08 GAA. Despite the raw numbers not seeming unique, the truth is that he’s handling his assignment exceptionally well.

Image Credit: Elite Prospects

The image above is Portillo’s game-by-game statistics from this season. Out of 23 games, Portillo has faced more than 30 shots in 15 of those games. Five of those 15 games included Portillo dealing with at least 40 shots. Portillo’s haggling with a horrendous Michigan defensive core this season. He’s having the heaviest workload out of any NCAA goalie this year. This workload has significantly impacted his numbers, which illustrates the save percentage. It is without a doubt that if Michigan had a better defensive game, Portillo would have just as good (if not better) numbers as he’s had in years prior.

With Portillo showing up on Buffalo’s trading block, it’ll be the perfect opportunity for the Kings to take a stab at him. Portillo would instantly become their best goalie prospect, and he may be NHL-ready as early as next season. Portillo is vastly nearer to the NHL than people think, and it’s not likely that he’ll be in the AHL for too long.

A breakdown of Erik Portillo

If Portillo can live up to his potential and the Kings were to acquire and sign him, he would likely be LA’s starter in late 2023. It feels far-fetched, but Portillo is close. Scouts like him because he is so calm in the net and can position himself well. Because of his 6’6″ frame, he can cover the net while fluidly following the pace of the puck. His size and creative movements have made him a unicorn goalie, and it’s not likely we will see a goalie like him for another few years.

Portillo’s weakness is his glove side. He’s had issues following through with his movements on that side, and it’s likely because of timing and vision. Being able to be fully coordinated is a tough job for a goalie, but it’s a fixable issue. Vision training is much more accessible in the NHL than in the NCAA. If he can clean up some of those problems during the summer, it’ll be crucial to his development. These vision issues show up through traffic shots, too. He’s easy to beat when bodies are in front of the net. Again, this problem is easy to repair using coordination and vision training.

But he’s also making incredibly clutch saves that look flashy but also controlled.

Portillo is a goaltender who deals with high-event chances yet remains calm and undisturbed. Occasionally he’ll slip up and let in a goal that he shouldn’t, but overall, when he’s in the net, he’s a reliable shot-stopper.

Although Erik Portillo won’t immediately save the LA Kings in the net, he’s a goaltending prospect they should try to acquire. His workload in the NCAA and his NHL potential will make him a viable option for the Kings’ goaltending in the future.

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2 thoughts on “Why the LA Kings should acquire Erik Portillo

  1. Great take by you! Perhaps the Kings read this article or just researched young prospect goalies who looked available & reached the same conclusions as you reached. In either case, you get credit for a great analysis & article. Now the Kings must sign Portillo & coach him up while with Ontario Reign next season. GKG!!!

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