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Los Angeles Kings: 2023-24 Season Preview

Jan 31, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Los Angeles Kings right wing Adrian Kempe (9) is congratulated by center Anze Kopitar (11) and defenseman Mikey Anderson (44) after his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Key Additions/Subtractions

In: Pierre-Luc Dubois, Trevor Lewis, Cam Talbot, David Rittich

Out: Alex Iafallo, Gabe Vilardi, Sean Durzi, Rasmus Kupari, Sean Walker, Cal Petersen

Obviously, the biggest move of the off-season for the Kings was bringing in Pierre-Luc Dubois from Winnipeg. The 25-year old center has long wanted to be on a team ready to compete for the Stanley Cup, and clearly the hope is that he can help the Kings climb that mountain. Dubois has been a 60+ point player for the past two seasons and could potentially blossom even further on a Kings team where he isn’t going to be asked to take on the heaviest assignments. 

The price to acquire him was steep, however, sending forwards Alex Iafallo, Gabe Vilardi, and Rasmus Kupari to the Jets in exchange. Iafallo was a versatile, defensively-responsible forward, while Vilardi was finally starting to get into a groove after battling injuries early in his career. Kupari was still a work in progress, not completely able to cement a regular line-up spot but displaying promise in flashes. 

The Kings also worked to clear out cap space and roster spots on the blue line, sending Sean Durzi to Arizona and Sean Walker to the Flyers in separate transactions. Walker’s move was part of the same trade that sent goaltender Cal Petersen to Philadelphia as well. Getting out from under Petersen’s contract was a success for Kings general manager Rob Blake, given that Petersen hadn’t lived up to the expectations of his $3.85 million-per-year contract. 

Goaltending is still one of the biggest points of concern for the team, however. The team signed Cam Talbot to share starting duties with Pheonix Copley, and brought in David Rittich as insurance. Rittich, presuming he passes through waivers, will spend his time in the AHL but at least has a decent amount of NHL experience if he’s needed. 

Strengths/Weaknesses

The Kings center depth is the strongest that it’s been in years with the addition of Dubois. The triple threat of Dubois, Anze Kopitar, and Phil Danault down the middle should be a matchup nightmare for opponents. If Dubois improves his faceoff statistics — he’s got a career 45.4% success rate — he could be even more dangerous for the team in terms of playmaking. 

The forward group has added a lot of offense over the past few seasons, providing a big jump in scoring for the team. Provided that players like Viktor Arvidsson, Kevin Fiala, and Adrian Kempe stay healthy, each of those players should be a major contributor to scoring for the team. While scoring has been a concern for the Kings in the past, they’ve been steadily improving season over season, and this year has even more potential than the last. 

The back end is where things get concerning for the Kings. As mentioned previously, goaltending will almost certainly be a weak point for the team. Copley’s success last season was a heartwarming story but it remains to be seen if he can repeat that or not. Talbot had an average season last year with the Ottawa Senators, although whether his struggles were due to his aging or the Senators skill is a question that will be answered soon. 

Biggest Questions

  1. In a Pacific Division where most teams (sorry, Sharks and Ducks) just keeping better, have the Kings done enough to keep pace with their competition?
  2. Will the young players like Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, Tobias Bjornfot, and Jordan Spence take steps forward in their development?
  3. When will Brandt Clarke make his season debut?
  4. Did Rob Blake do enough to get the Kings into the playoffs again — and, maybe more importantly, actually get out of the first round? 

Star Players

While Trevor Lewis rejoining the team gives the Kings one more Cup-winning veteran, it’s still really just Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty holding things down as the grizzled veterans of the team. While Kopitar may have slowed down in terms of his foot speed, he’s still a star player not just on this team but in the league. Last season, Kopitar had his best year in terms of points (74) since 2017-18 and has developed great chemistry with Adrian Kempe on the team’s top line.

Doughty may likewise not be the same caliber player who won the Norris in 2016, but he also has bounced back from a few lackluster seasons. Doughty, who has missed significant time due to injury in recent years, played 81 games last year and recorded 52 points, his most since 2017-18. Pairing the more offensive-minded Doughty with a more dependable defenseman has always been the team’s strategy, and his partnership with Mikey Anderson has continued to evolve and impress. 

Kevin Fiala, a casualty of the cap in Minnesota, has fit right in with the Kings, coming in second in scoring last season. He will likely be paired with Pierre-Luc Dubois, which is a tantalizing playmaking combination for the Kings. Fiala brings a style and creativity to his play that the Kings have been lacking over the years, and he should elevate that this season. 

Under the Radar Impact

The Kings picked up Vladislav Gavrikov last season before the trade deadline, and he fit in immediately on the team, taking no time at all to get up to speed with the demands of the Kings’ system. The blue line is a big question mark for the Kings, with no real star players other than Doughty. What impact will a full season of Gavrikov have on the blue line? With more time to develop a rhythm with his defensive partner (Matt Roy throughout the pre-season), will he be able to help provide some much needed depth and consistency on the back end? 

Key Young Player

You knew this was coming: Quinton Byfield. The 2020 first-round draft pick is slowly growing into his role on the team, but everyone is still waiting for a breakout season from him. With the acquisition of Dubois, Byfield has been shifted to the wing, where he will at least start the season on a line alongside Kopitar and Kempe. The Kings are no strangers to late bloomers — Kempe himself is a prime example — and the organization continues to preach patience with Byfield. . 

There are plenty of concerns to go around regarding how Byfield has been deployed by the Kings. The hope is that taking Byfield away from the pressure of being a center will allow his scoring and playmaking to develop better. He’s still just 20 years old, but fans are eager to see him live up to the promise inherent in being a number two draft pick.


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