The LA Kings may not have too many options to fill their blueline in Unrestricted Free Agency, but a 27-year-old in the Buffalo Sabres organization could be an inexpensive option.

I wrote last week that the LA Kings need to add more skill to their blueline. This tweet would seem to back that up a bit:

Five defensemen on the Kings last season show up on that list of the most “failed plays” in the 2022-23 regular season. Not great.

Of course, two of those five are UFAs, and General Manager Rob Blake has his work cut out for him to fill the LD2 slot if they cannot afford Vladislav Gavrikov.

While LD2 will likely be someone with established NHL experience, there’s still a way for the Kings to add some skill to their D corps on the bottom-pairing.

Lawrence Pilut

Swedish blueliner Lawrence Pilut went undrafted before being signed by the Buffalo Sabres in 2018-19. After two years with the Sabres, he played the next two seasons in the KHL with Traktor Chelyabinsk. The Sabres brought him back to North America this season on a one-year deal worth $750,000. Given the Sabres’ blueline depth, Pilut has played just 17 games in the NHL this season, tallying a goal and two assists. In 63 total NHL games, he has two goals and seven assists. Numbers that don’t jump off the screen at you.

But when you look a little deeper and at his style of play, this is a defenseman that, if given a legitimate opportunity, could provide a lot to a Kings’ team that has some deficiencies getting out of their own zone.

Consider the above tweet from JFresh Hockey, where so many Kings defensemen appeared on a list of “failed” plays. Expected Buffalo tracks similar data for the Buffalo Sabres and their AHL affiliate Rochester Americans, where Pilut has spent most of the season. He’s been among Rochester’s best defensemen in both Controlled Exits and the percentage of Failed Zone Exits:

Chart Via Expected Buffalo

Pilut is also a contributor in the offensive zone, as he was second on the team in 5-on-5 shot contributions:

Chart Via Expected Buffalo

In 47 AHL games this season, Pilut has picked up three goals and 25 assists. Per Sean O’Brien’s Point Shares model, he grades out as a top-pair defenseman in the AHL:

Via Sean O’Brien

He is having an excellent showing in the AHL playoffs as well, with three goals and three assists in six games; including this overtime winner to send Rochester to the second round:

Listed at (a generous) 5-foot-11 and not even 200 pounds, Pilut isn’t an imposing figure on the ice. And to be clear, I don’t think he’s a top-four defenseman in the NHL. That said, he’s not afraid of the physical play, and as we see below, like many left-shot defensemen in the LA Kings’ system, he’s aggressive in the neutral zone and at his own blueline:

But what the Kings need is skilled puck movers on the back end. And right now, at least on the left side, that doesn’t exist with the Kings’ AHL affiliate Ontario Reign. Jacob Moverare and Tobias Bjornfot are more defensive defensemen, and mobility and puck movement aren’t the best parts of their game.

Pilut also likes to jump up into the rush and, despite his size, uses his body well to shield opposing defensemen:

He’s also been an instrumental piece to Rochester’s power play, and his instincts in the offensive zone offer a lot in the way of creativity. In this final clip, he shows off his elusiveness in setting up an Amerks’ goal:


It has been documented that Rob Blake has his hands full this offseason with holes to fill in goal, on the blue line, and perhaps even the bottom six of the forward group; a lot of shuffling needs to occur with very little money to work with. Currently making the league minimum, Pilut won’t command much of a raise. Given the loaded left side of the defense in Buffalo, Pilut could welcome an opportunity to play consistent third-pair minutes in Los Angeles.

Video via InStat

(Main Photo Credit: Micheline V/Rochester Americans)

6 thoughts on “LA Kings: AHL defenseman an inexpensive UFA option

  1. The LA Kings need ” Size ” on Defence . Their lack of it was very evident against Edmonton . The Kings have enough talent on Defence and their 1 3 1 is hard to get though, but way too many opposition shots are between the Red Dots or right in front of the goalie . Size and Grit ….. !

    1. I agree. Much grit is needed. Too passive against Oilers. Identity questionable considering their not so long ago commitment to playing a more aggressive style. The fore & back check that made then successful in the regular season a year ago vaporized in this playoffs. No uptick in physicality for Lord Stanley was a fatal mistake. Some raw meat and gun powder in the diet is needed.

    2. Thanks for reading and commenting! Size is great as long as it comes with ability. I don’t prioritize a guy who can clear guys out of the front of the net (since when can Anderson, Gavrikov, Roy, Edler not do that?), I need guys that can make it so we aren’t playing in front of our net. Just my opinion, of course.

  2. Hi Joe,
    Appreciate the article. I was thinking along the same lines in terms of we have depth coming from the AHL/OHL on the right side, but lacking on the left. Could we make a move similar to McNabb years ago to shore the left up cost effectively?
    I do think the commenters have a point in that with Durzi, Clarke, Spence we have right side guys with skill. Might make more sense to complement them with defensive aptitude/size on the left side. Although I agree with your point, a lot of our trouble vs the Oilers started with our D getting caught before they could move the puck out.
    A question, do we have similar stats for Spence and his AHL play? (I know, left side vs right, just curious)

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