Pacific Preview: L.A. Kings want to prove they’re a contender in the Western Conference

Photo credit:NHLI via Getty Images
Ryley Delaney
6 months ago
Are the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers destined for another first-round matchup?
Over the past two seasons, the Oilers have bounced the Kings in the first round. In the 2022 playoffs, Edmonton beat Los Angeles in Game 7, while dispelling the Kings in just six games the season after.
Have the Kings made enough moves to get them over the hump that is the first round? Let’s look at their off-season and what to expect from them this season. 

Los Angeles’ 2022-23:

Record: 47-25-10 (104 points)
Goals For: 280 (9 of 32)
Goals Against (16 of 32)
After rebuilding for several seasons, the Kings are certainly on the up and up. In fact, their 104 points were the highest dating all the way back to 1974-75 when they had 105. Yes, Los Angeles had more points than both seasons they won the Stanley Cup.
Anže Kopitar had his best season (28 goals, 74 points in 82 games) since the 2017-18 season where he had 35 goals and 92 points in 82 games. Kevin Fiala continued to build off his great 2021-22 season, scoring 23 goals and 72 points in 69 games, slightly below his point-per-game pace the season prior.
Not just that, but former late-first-round pick Adrian Kempe had a career year, scoring 41 goals and 67 points in 82 games. To stick with career years, Phillip Danualt also had one, scoring 18 goals and 54 points in 82 games, surpassing his 2018-19 totals with the Montreal Canadians.
As mentioned above, the Kings finished third in the Pacific Division and again got bounced by the Oilers in the first round.

Los Angeles’ off-season:

Additions: Pierre-Luc Dubois, Kevin Connauton, Cam Talbot, Trevor Lewis, Andreas Englund, David Rittich, Mikhail Maltsev, Joe Hicketts
Subtractions: Gabe Vilardi, Sean Walker, Cal Petersen, Alex Iaffalo, Sean Durzi, Rasmus Kupari, Joonas Korpisalo, Alexander Edler, Lias Andersson, Zack MacEwen, Nate Schnarr
The Kings were busy this past off-season. In fact, they made one of the biggest trades with the Winnipeg Jets, training Gabe Vilard, Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari and a second-round pick in the upcoming draft for Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Realistically, this probably wasn’t a good trade for the Kings. Vilardi had a good season with Los Angeles in 2022-23, scoring a career-high 23 goals and 41 points in 63 games. Iafallo also scored 14 goals and 36 points, and was exactly what you want in a middle-six forward. Kupari is a bottom -six forward who has put up around 15 points a season the last two years. Still only 23 years old, there’s room for improvement.
Now, they didn’t lose a superstar by any means, but Dubois isn’t nearly worth they gave up. Last season, the former Columbus Blue Jackets player scored 27 goals and 63 points in 73 games, the latter being a career-high. One player can change the outcome for a hockey club, but Dubois just isn’t that guy.
Not to mention that they lost Joonas Korpisalo via free agency. The netminder was traded by Columbus to Los Angeles and posted a .921 save percentage and 2.13 goals against average in the 11 games he played in. To replace him, they brought in Cam Talbot and David Rittich, which isn’t exactly a reliable tandem. 

Los Angeles’ outlook:

The Kings don’t lack anything offensively. Next to Edmonton and maybe Las Vegas, it’s one of the best offences in the division. Defensively, they are solid, with Drew Doughty posting his best season in 2022-23 since the 2009-10 season. Mikey Anderson, Vladislav Gavrikov, and Matt Roy are all top-four pairing defencemen.
The biggest struggle for the Kings is their goaltending depth. Aside from his first season in Edmonton, Talbot is better suited as a backup with a strong defence in front of him. In 2022-23, he started the majority of Ottawa’s games and posted a .898 save percentage. That leaves Rittich (career .902 save percentage) and Pheonix Copley (career .904 save percentage) in the goal, neither of which has played well as a starter in their careers.
The Kings will definitely be a playoff team, but with Calgary, Vancouver, and Seattle breathing down their necks, it will have to be a hard-fought season for the Kings in 2023-24.

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