Given that the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup last season, it was already going to be difficult for some of their young talent to crack the NHL roster at the beginning of the year. That task is going to be even more difficult with the entire roster from that Cup team returning.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for this team to improve. It may not be instant, but the Kings may be able to use some of their young offensive talent throughout the season.
The 2011-12 season wasn’t too strong for the Kings offensively. This is a team built on defense and they relied heavily on the blue line and Jonathan Quick to carry them until they barely grabbed the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. They ranked second-to-last in offensive production during the regular season.
Despite the fact that the Kings were able to score some goals in the postseason, I’d expect them to give some of their young kids a run and see if they can’t help to bolster this offense a bit in 2012-13. We already saw Jordan Nolan grab some time last year, both in the regular season and in the postseason, and I look for him to get a bit more this season.
When talking about top offensive prospects in this system, we’re talking about Andrei Loktionov and Tyler Toffoli.
Unlike Toffoli, we’ve already seen Loktionov at the NHL level. he appeared in 39 games for the Kings last season, getting his callup when the Kings were starved for some offense in the middle of the season. He’s a solid two-way player with a very accurate shot and strong playmaking skills. Of the young ones, he’s likely going to get the first crack at the roster.
Toffoli is going to be the guy who many folks are going to be watching, though. He’s been an offensive juggernaut for the past few seasons in the OHL with two 50-goal campaigns in his last three years and more than 100 points in less than 70 games last season. With an offensive skill set like that, it’s very likely that we’re going to see him at some point this season.
There are, of course, other names. Jordan Weal could see a nice look at training camp and 2012 first round pick Tanner Pearson will be an intriguing name to watch next month. But ultimately, the two we’re going to be watching for this season are Loktionov and Toffoli.
The LA Kings have plenty of depth up front, but it’s not all offensive depth. A lot of what they have on the forward ranks are gritty guys who are great on the forecheck, but won’t score a lot of goals. For that reason, I’d expect Loktionov and Toffoli to get their shot to stick in this lineup sooner, rather than later.