Los Angeles Kings: Martin Frk is much-needed boost for third line

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 05: Martin Frk #29 of the Los Angeles Kings skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at Staples Center on March 05, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 05: Martin Frk #29 of the Los Angeles Kings skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period at Staples Center on March 05, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

Potentially entering his final chance in the NHL, Marting Frk can be a legitimate scoring threat for the Los Angeles Kings on the third line.

As a former second-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings, Martin Frk took a bit longer than expected to become a legitimate scoring threat for the Los Angeles Kings. He spent most of his three-year entry-level contract in the AHL and ECHL, experiencing a breakout 2014-2015 campaign, scoring 23 goals with 15 assists for Toledo.

He followed that performance up with career-highs in the AHL, tallying 23 goals with 15 assists, including nine goals in the postseason as well. The Carolina Hurricanes claimed him off waivers in October 2016, but the Red Wings returned the favor, re-claiming him the next month, and he returned to Grand Rapids of the AHL for the 2016-2017 season.

Can Martin Frk grab regular playing time with the Los Angeles Kings?

During the 2018-2019 season, Frk saw 30 games for the Red Wings, but he failed to build off a promising year in which he scored 11 goals with 14 assists in 60 games. The Pelhrimov, Czech Republic native scored just one goal with five assists in 30 games. After Tyler Bertuzzi was cleared to play again, Frk was the odd man out, being sent back down to Grand Rapids after clearing waivers.

"“I just want to play,” Frk said, via Detroit Free Press. “If I have to go to the A(HL), I will go to the A. This season was so far really horrible for me. I just want to enjoy hockey, I don’t want to be here sitting in the stands."

The writing was on the wall for Frk in Detroit, and he signed with the Los Angeles Kings last July. Spending most of the year in Ontario, Frk tallied 23 goals with 13 assists and a +12 rating. He saw time in 17 games with the Kings, scoring six goals with two assists for eight points. Frk participated in the 2020 AHL All-Star Classic, breaking Zdeno Chara’s record for the fastest shot ever.

Still, when it comes to where Frk fits in with the Kings – assuming he gets that chance to prove himself – it’s not entirely clear where, and if he’ll be able to produce over a full season. Last season, Frk produced a 53.6 Corsi percentage and 3.9 CorsiRel value, meaning the Kings controlled the puck and forced shots on net when he was on the ice.

While not lateral, both values were similar to Frk’s production in 68 games for Detroit during the 2017-2018 campaign. Could the Kings benefit from a guy who scores 10-15 goals and chips in that many in assists as well? Absolutely.

According to Evolving Hockey, he profiles closest to Vancouver’s Nikolay Goldobin, who tallied 15 goals with 26 assists over the last three seasons. Goldobin played just one game at the NHL level this past year, spending the majority of his time playing for Utica in the AHL.

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And right now, I have Frk slotting into right-wing along the third line, which is where he was playing before the shutdown. Perhaps there’s no correlation, but once he was recalled from Ontario on February 12, the Kings ripped off ten wins in thirteen games.

There’s no question that his defense, or lack thereof, is a major concern. He’s one player that could benefit the most from this long layoff, developing the skillset to become at least average on defense. And frankly, he needs to, if he wants to avoid being passed over again.

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Regarding the third line, Frk played well when paired with Adrian Kempe and Jeff Carter last year, albeit the sample size was limited to only 33 minutes on ice. Add in the unknown of where Jeff Carter fits in next year, either at center or right-wing, you just have to hope he’s also healthy, as he underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury.

Frk also spent a considerable amount of time paired with Gabriel Vilardi and Kempe. With the latter being a second liner, I’m not sure that it makes sense to move Frk that far up, but he seems to play well with Kempe as both pairings have ranked above-average.

With one of the best goals versus expectation rates on the Kings last year, there is an opportunity for Frk to see regular playing time, at least until a prospect is ready.

Watching him play, he has a high IQ offensively – see his first goal with the Kings – putting himself in a favorable position to snipe the puck on net, but he needs to find that balance that also doesn’t make him a liability on defense.