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2011 LA Kings Team Preview: Kings Recovering From a Disappointing Year

Darin Brown

Darin Brown

Darin Brown writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

OUTLOOK

The Kings followed up their breakout campaign of the previous year with a fourth place finish in the highly competitive Pacific Division and the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs. A hard fought series against the Sharks in the first round saw the Kings bow out in six games to put the wraps on a disappointing season. This offseason they jettisoned Ryan Smyth and lost out on their primary free agent target in Brad Richards but picked up a pair of snipers in Mike Richards and Simon Gagne to help spearhead the offensive attack along with Anze Kopitar. The defense will be led by Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson with Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier manning the nets.

THE BIG GUNS

Anze Kopitar (C): Kopitar was well on his way to setting career highs until a scoring slump in January and February before an ugly ankle injury put his season on ice for good in late March. It was still a fine season (25 G, 48 A) out of the 23-year-old, but not quite the breakout season many were anticipating. He'll need to be better on the power play (six goals, 12 assists last year for a Kings' unit that finished in the bottom third in both PPGs and PP %) if he wants to return to the 30-goal plateau. His offseason rehab from ankle surgery has gone well and the addition of Mike Richards should take some of the defensive attention off of Kopitar.

Mike Richards (C): Richards came over to the Kings in an offseason trade following another solid season (23 G, 43 A) for the Flyers. He did a lot of his damage on special teams for the Flyers and he figures to get a heavy dose of power-play time for the Kings as well. It's expected that Richards will be reunited with Simon Gagne after the pair enjoyed some success when skating together in Philadelphia. He'll center one of the Kings' top two lines with Anze Kopitar centering the other.

Drew Doughty (D): Doughty took a bit of a step back (11 G, 29 A) from his breakout season of 2009-10 (16 G, 43 A) in large part due to a lack of production on the power play (15 points last year compared with 31 from the previous year). He'll continue to log heavy minutes on the Kings' blue line and will remain a fixture on their top power-play unit with the hope that the additions of Richards and Simon Gagne can re-ignite a unit that struggled to score with the man advantage last year. Just be aware that he is a contract holdout at the start of training camp.

ON THE RISE

Dustin Penner (LW): Penner isn't really on the rise but rather a nice buy-low option. Given his season last year with the Kings, he may come in at a rock bottom discount. He was a total bust (six points in 19 games) after coming over to the Kings from the Oilers at the trade deadline with questions about his work ethic and fitness levels. Perhaps a fresh start in training camp will help erase the memories of last season as he looks to regain his scoring touch. He'll likely start off by skating on one of the team's top two lines and a return to the 30-goal mark isn't out of the question as he enters the last year of his contract.

ONE TO AVOID

Jarrett Stoll (C): Stoll posted his highest goal total (20) since 2005-06 despite seeing his power-play production (four goals, eight assists) drop to a career low. The addition of Mike Richards and Simon Gagne could further cut into his power-play time and he'll now likely center the team's third line with Kopitar and Richards centering the top two scoring lines. He'll need to do most of his damage at even strength surrounded by some lesser talented linemates if he wants to eclipse the 20-goal mark again.

TOP PROSPECTS

Nicolas Deslauriers: Deslauriers had another fine season in the QMJHL, recording 43 points (14 G, 30 A) in 48 games. He then led all QMJHL blueliners in playoff scoring (5 G, 15 A in 24 games) as he took his team to the finals. He's the Kings' best offensive prospect among their blueliners behind Thomas Hickey and bears watching as he enters the pro ranks.

Tyler Toffolli: Toffolli led the OHL in goals (57) and points (108) in just 68 games and projects as a pure sniper at the NHL level. He'll head back to the OHL for what figures to be another fine season to work on refining his game and skating but is definitely one to watch.

Linden Vey: Vey led the WHL in scoring with 116 points in just 69 games and was a dominant force in Medicine Hat's playoff run. He doesn't have anything left to prove in the WHL and figures to get his feet wet with Manchester in the AHL. He'll have to earn his spot on the Monarchs so don't be alarmed if he starts the season slowly.

Vyacheslav Voynov: Voynov took his game to the next level in his third season with Manchester in the AHL, posting 51 points (15 G, 36 A) in 76 games which ranked him seventh among AHL blueliners. He's quite possibly the most offensively-gifted defensemen in the Kings' system outside of Drew Doughty but it remains to be seen if the Kings will give the 21-year old a chance to earn a spot in training camp. He's likely headed back to Manchester to anchor the Monarchs' defensive corps.

Jordan Weal: Weal enjoyed another fine season in the WHL. He may not have posted as many points (96) as the previous year (102), but he didn't have Jordan Eberle on his team this year so it may have been a more impressive effort. He led his team in goals (43) and assists (53) with no other teammate scoring more than 18 goals or having more than 52 points. He'll need to add some bulk to his frame (5'8", 158 pounds) if he wants to produce in the professional ranks however. He's expected to start the season again in juniors after a brief cup of coffee in the AHL at the end of last season.