Los Angeles Kings: Youth movement will be fun to watch

(Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

Which prospects might make their debuts for the Los Angeles Kings next year?

After back-to-back disappointing seasons and the most recent ending prematurely to the coronavirus pandemic, the Los Angeles Kings are in a bit of a transition. Six years removed from winning their second Stanley Cup in three years, the Kings have won just one playoff game since then and that came way back in the first round of the 2016 playoffs.

On their way to a 64-point season, the Kings said goodbye to several key contributors from previous seasons, trading away Tyler Toffoli and Alec Martinez in separate deals, freeing up salary cap and gaining draft capital in the process. And despite playing in nearly every game the previous three seasons, defenseman Derek Forbort was sent off to Calgary after playing in just 13 games this year.

He tallied a combined -17 rating over the last two years, but he was able to net a conditional fourth-round pick in next year’s draft. That’s what it’s all about right now. Getting as many draft picks as possible while letting some of the younger players on this roster have an increased role to gauge their abilities at the NHL level.

One of those players this past year was Matt Roy. The 24-year-old defenseman was a seventh-round pick by the Kings in the 2015 NHL Draft and after playing in just 25 games last year, he saw time in 70 games during the 2019-2020 season. Roy primarily played on the second line, recording four goals and 14 assists for 18 total points.

Sean Walker is another guy on the blue line who saw increased playing time. The former undrafted defenseman out of Bowling Green played in 39 games last year, scoring three goals with seven assists for ten points and a -8 rating. His playing time increased to 70 games this past season, scoring five goals with 19 assists for 24 total points despite a -12 rating.

Looking ahead to next year, simply because the Kings won’t be playing postseason hockey, they arguably have the best farm system in the league with The Athletic ranking nine players within the Top 124 NHL Prospects. They also hold the second overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, so to say the future is bright for the LA Kings would be putting it modestly.

Let’s see who might make their debuts next year.

Alex Turcotte – Center

The Kings’ fifth overall pick in last year’s draft was signed to a three-year entry-level contract back in March. The former Wisconsin Badger scored nine goals with 17 assists for 26 points and a -10 rating in 29 games. Prior to that, he was exceptional for Team USA’s U18 National Team, scoring 27 goals with 35 assists for 62 points.

Arthur Kaliyev – Forward

Along with Jordan Spence, Kaliyev was recently signed to a three-year entry-level contract and was selected with the 33rd overall pick in last year’s draft. He has been, in a word,  “sensational” playing in the OHL the last three years.

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Most recently, Kaliyev scored 44 goals with 54 assists for 98 points and a -7 rating in 57 games. He’s a finalist for the Red Tilson Trophy, which goes to the most outstanding player in the Ontario Hockey League. He averaged double-digit shot attempts per game and could be useful in helping the Kings with their scoring woes.

Tobias Bjornfot – Defenseman

Bjornfot saw a brief sample of the NHL this year, playing in three games to start the 2019-2020 season. He’s still just 19 years old and signed his three-year entry-level contract last July. There’s a good chance he could break camp with the Kings next year, given how he performed with Ontario this past season. Bjornfot scored six goals with 13 assists for 19 points and a +13 rating.

Just the tip of the iceberg, the Kings have a wealth of talent that will be making their way to the NHL in the not-so-distant future. Combined with the veteran core of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick, just to name a few, the LA Kings’ rebuild could be a short one.