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NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 32 teams from Aug. 8-Sept. 8. Today, the Los Angeles Kings.
The Los Angeles Kings enter the 2022-23 season intent to evolve from unexpected Stanley Cup Playoff participant to perennial contender to eventual NHL champions for the first time since 2014.
They went further faster than anticipated last season, winning 44 games and pushing the Edmonton Oilers to Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round following three straight seasons of missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
[Kings 32 in 32: 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown]
They appear to be set up for long-term success with forwards Adrian Kempe, 25, Arthur Kaliyev, 21 and Rasmus Kupari, 22, and 20-year-old center Quinton Byfield, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, set for his first full season in the NHL.
To the Kings, patience proved virtuous seeing Kempe score an NHL career-high 35 goals after averaging 11 his first four seasons. The breakthrough earned him a four-year, $22 million contract (average annual value $5.5 million).
“Adrian is a great example of how every player is a little different,” Kings director of player personnel Nelson Emerson said. “It took him some time to get comfortable with the League and last year, that’s definitely a breakout season. I think now we are seeing a lot of our young players and young prospects starting to develop into pros. It’s an exciting time and now that we saw that, we want to build on that type of play.”
Video: LAK@EDM, Gm5: Kempe tucks in a nifty overtime winner
The build continued when Kevin Fiala signed a seven-year, $55.125 million contract ($7.875 million AAV) June 30, one day after he was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild for defenseman prospect Brock Faber and the No. 19 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. Kings general manager Rob Blake said Fiala fit his prototype of “scoring, dynamic scoring, playmaking ability [and] puck possession.” Fiala had NHL career highs in goals (33), assists (52), points (85) and average time on ice (17:39) in 82 games last season, 51 (20 goals, 31 assists) after the 2022 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend. His 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in April (16 games) were tied for fifth with Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis Blues), Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames) and Robert Thomas (Blues). His 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in 24 games against Pacific opponents were the most against any division.
“Obviously really excited when management wants to take that next step,” Kings forward Trevor Moore said. “You look at the deepest teams in the League, it benefits everybody. Your third line produces more. Your fourth line produces more because you have more control of the game and more offensive zone time.”
Fiala joins Moore, a 27-year-old coming off NHL career highs of 17 goals, 31 assists and 48 points. Forwards Phillip Danault (51 points; 27 goals, 24 assists) and Viktor Arvidsson (49 points; 20 goals, 29 assists) had strong first seasons in Los Angeles. Captain Anze Kopitar, 32, defenseman Drew Doughty, 32, and goalie Jonathan Quick, 36, remain from the championship core of 2012 and 2014. They continue to lead by example. Kopitar’s 67 points were his most since an NHL career-high 92 in 2017-18.
“They’ve done it,” Moore said. “They’re the players they are, and we lean on them a lot, but it’s going to take more from the rest of us. I would like to take a step forward myself. I think that the younger guys like ‘Artie’ and ‘QB’ and the other young guys are going to take a step. And if you start getting big minutes from the guys beneath ‘Kopi’ and them, I think our team can really mold a good identity and be a team that can be a force for a while.”
Doughty (wrist), Arvidsson (herniated disk) and defenseman Sean Walker (torn ACL and MCL) each had surgery and are expected to be ready for the start of training camp. Quick enters the final season of a 10-year contract after he held off Cal Petersen with his best totals (23 wins, 2.59 goals-against average, .910 save percentage) since 2017-18. Healthy returns and Quick defying Father Time will keep the Kings in contention. Expectations are heightened, the old guard and new blood energized after the feel-good run of 2021-22, one that began to slip away with a Game 6 loss to the Oilers on home ice.
“They’re ready to go for it,” Byfield said, “and it just shows that they believe in us and that we’re a playoff team.”
NHL.com independent correspondent Dan Greenspan contributed to this report
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