Well, I guess the midseason coaching change worked out just a little, eh? The Kings were mostly left for dead until a shakeup saw the team bring in Darryl Sutter and jettison Terry Murray. The Kings caught fire at the end of the regular season, snuck into the playoffs as the eight seed in the Western Conference, proceeded to dispatch the three top seeds in the West en route to the Stanley Cup Finals where they dispatched of the Devils to hoist the Cup.
The Kings finished ahead of only the lowly Wild in goals scored but only the Blues allowed fewer goals last year. As a result, there's not a ton of fantasy superstars on this squad apart from goalie Jonathan Quick. This also isn't a squad with a lot of up-and-comers and instead will rely on its core of veterans to defend its Stanley Cup championship.
THE BIG GUNS
Anze Kopitar (C): Kopitar started the season red hot with 14 points in his first 11 games, but failed to top the 30-goal mark for the second straight year. He's prone to extended scoring slumps and often is tasked with playing against the opposition's top line which figures to keep his overall numbers down. But he's still a threat to score 30 goals as he enters the prime of his career.
Jonathan Quick (G): Where to begin? Quick was among the game's best during the regular season (35 wins, .929 save percentage, 1.95 GAA) before embarking on his unbelievable run in the playoffs that culminated with a hoisting of the Stanley Cup. He signed a ten-year contract with the Kings but isn't the type to rest on his laurels. Expect another 35-win season as long as his summer back surgery is fully healed.
Mike Richards (C): Richards had a rough regular season, battling a concussion and some inconsistent linemates on the way to 44 points (18 G, 26 A) in 74 games. He went through a long stretch without a goal in 25 games at the start of 2011, but seemed to click once the team acquired his buddy Jeff Carter from the Blue Jackets. He figures to be much better this season with Carter riding shotgun alongside him.
ON THE RISE
Slava Voynov (D): Voynov has a developing offensive game (eight goals and 12 assists in 54 games) and figures to improve on those numbers, especially if he can begin to earn a few more shifts on the power play. The 22-year-old figures to pair with the veteran Willie Mitchell on the team's second pairing which should yield plenty of ice time as he looks to take his game to the next level.
PLAYERS AND SITUATIONS TO WATCH
Jeff Carter (RW): Carter escaped Columbus in a trade deadline deal last year and while he didn't put up huge numbers (six goals and three assists) for the Kings in 16 regular-season games, he did notch eight tallies in the team's run to the Stanley Cup. An ankle injury slowed his integration into the Kings lineup so perhaps a full season skating alongside close friend Mike Richards will help him recapture the form he flashed as a Flyer.
Drew Doughty (D): Doughty, perhaps more than any player on the Kings, seemed to benefit the most from the midseason coaching change as he was a totally different player under Darryl Sutter and could have taken home Conn Smythe honors if Jonathan Quick hadn't stolen the show in the postseason. Factor in a contract dispute that wiped out his training camp and it's easy to find excuses for his slow start that resulted in his lowest goals (10) and points (36) since his rookie season. A bounceback season would seem to be on the horizon.
Simon Gagne (LW): Gagne got off to a hot start with seven tallies in his first 17 games, but a concussion in late December cut his regular-season short. He was largely a disappointment (seven goals and 10 assists in 34 games) despite the quick start. He finally returned to the lineup in the Stanley Cup Finals and early indications are that he's going to try to play in 2012-13 following offseason neck surgery. He's under contract for one more season and figures to challenge Dustin Penner for a spot in the top-six forwards, but it's becoming harder and harder to count on Gagne for both production and health.
Dustin Penner (LW): Penner was a disaster for much of the season -- he had just 17 points in 65 games-- before catching fire in the playoffs, tallying 11 points in 20 games on route to the Cup. The Kings decided to bring him back for another season and he'll get a chance to earn a spot among the top-six group of forwards. However, his breakout season of 2009-10 is drifting further and further into the rearview mirror.
Jarret Stoll (C): Stoll was asked to transition to a third-line role this past season and saw his offensive game evaporate as a result, totaling a career-low 21 points and just six goals. That's not likely to change with Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards occupying the top two lines, so don't expect much of an improvement out of Stoll.
Tanner Pearson (W): Pearson was a late-bloomer after getting bypassed in his first two years of draft eligiblity, but exploded last season with 91 points (37 G, 54 A) in 60 games in the OHL, earning him a first-round selection by the Kings in the 2012 Entry Draft. He'll likely head to the AHL to prove that last year's outburst wasn't a fluke.
Tyler Toffoli (W): After leading the OHL in goals and points in 2010-11, Toffoli had another fine junior season, scoring a league-leading 52 goals and picking up 48 assists in 65 games. He's easily the Kings' best offensive prospect and could push for a roster spot as soon as this season, though he's likely headed to the AHL to round out his game. The 20-year-old projects as a pure sniper at the NHL level and definitely needs to be rostered in dynasty formats if he's still available.
Linden Vey (W): Vey had a promising debut (19 goals and 24 assists in 74 games) in the AHL last year after leading the WHL in goals in 2010-11. He has room to add some muscle to his frame (5-11, 176) and could play his way into a mid-season callup. He's not an elite offensive prospect like Tyler Toffoli, but figures to be a solid producer at the NHL level.
Jordan Weal (C): Weal was once again his team's dominant offensive force, racking up 41 goals and 116 points for Regina in the WHL. No other teammate had more than 55 points and Weal's 116 points were good for fifth overall in the league. He'll need to add some bulk to his frame if he wants to produce in the upper ranks of the minors, though. Look for him to start this season in the AHL.