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2017-18 Season Preview: The Forwards

We’ve written a few features on some of the more compelling Los Angeles Kings forwards heading into the 2017-18 NHL season. Let’s take a look at the rest, and while we’re at it, give you a little more reading material if you missed our summer writings.

The Stars

Anze Kopitar might be the safest bet for a rebound season in the National Hockey League, but he’ll have to keep old age (and potentially old linemates) from bringing him down. 65 points sounds about right. [Anze Kopitar is Going to Bounce Back… Right?]

Tanner Pearson [The Ontario Duo, 1/2]

Tyler Toffoli [The Ontario Duo, 2/2]

Jeff Carter will take three shots on goal per game and shoot at a 10% or higher clip, because that’s what he always does. If he plays another 82 games, that means 25 goals. Or more! [Will Jeff Carter maintain his level of production in 2017-18?]

The Pieces

Mike Cammalleri [The Offensive Difference-Maker (We Hope)]

Dustin Brown [The Forgotten Forward]

Marian Gaborik will start the season on injured reserve, which only raises questions about what his role will be. With the amount of rotation next to Kopitar and Brown, though, it might not take much for him to get his spot back. [Cammalleri Reacquaints With Old Linemates, Gaborik Reacquaints With Ice]

Trevor Lewis has ceased to be a Kings center, and he’s ceased to be one of the Kings’ primary penalty killers (10th on team in PK time last season). He’ll get his 12-14 minutes a game though. [Will Trevor Lewis Be a King for Life?]

The Depth

Nick Shore is once again going to be expected to be a stable presence in the bottom six, and this year, the rookie who’s accompanying him is a raw 21-year-old speedster instead of a more cautious, instinctive 26-year-old. Heavy defensive responsibility, here we come. [Can the Los Angeles Kings Get More Out of Nick Shore?]

Kyle Clifford will probably have between 8 and 14 points, because he’s done that every year, and he’ll probably spend the season on the fourth line with occasional shuffles upward for the same reason. He’s played with Lewis and Shore all preseason. [Is Kyle Clifford part of the future plans of the Kings?]

Andy Andreoff outlived Jordan Nolan, and though Kurtis MacDermid offers a fighting presence, Andreoff might be the choice when LA expects a fight. His eight goals in 2015-16 offer more hope for his upside than anything else we saw last year; playing net-front with Kempe should result in something. [Does Jordan Nolan or Andy Andreoff Have the Edge?]

Nic Dowd started last season with a regular gig, ended it with a semi-regular gig, and is now squarely on the lineup bubble. The Kings couldn’t keep the puck out of the net with Dowd out there last year, and the vision he showcased last season will need to manifest itself in its own end. [The Most Interesting Third Line in Hockey]

The Rookies

Jonny Brodzinski got six low-pressure games at the end of 2016-17 and picked up a pair of assists. He shouldn’t have to wait long for his first career goal, although Kempe and Kopitar would be very different centers for his style. [2017 Top 25 Under 25, #3: Jonny Brodzinski]

Alex Iafallo has skated with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown at practice two days in a row and has been on a collision course for the lineup since stripping Nate Schmidt of the puck in overtime during the first game in Vegas. Happy debut, bud. [2017 Top 25 Under 25, #12: Alex Iafallo]

Adrian Kempe is the rookie we knew would be here on Opening Night, and he’s the one we think will be here all year. It could be frustrating if he has growing pains or defensive struggles, but if he scores more goals like his first career NHL goal we’ll probably forgive him. [2017 Top 25 Under 25, #1: Adrian Kempe]

The Outlook

The rookies bring much-needed speed and Cammalleri brings some boom-or-bust goalscoring potential, and potential reinforcements (Michael Mersch and Justin Auger, mostly) have big bodies. But the team will go as its returning forwards go. Possession should still be just fine and the power play should be average again, and I’m not worried about the forwards in their own end. That, as always, leaves the goals.

Kopitar, Toffoli, Pearson, and Carter scored 84 goals last year, and the remaining forwards scored 78. I think the first group can do better. I think the second group HAS to do better. One excellent line and one additional #1 center will not be enough. Unlike past years where I pretty much knew how much the depth was going to produce, I really am not sure this year due to the system changes. Which maybe isn’t so bad.

Fine, put me down for a small step up from Pearson and medium ones from Kopitar and Toffoli; 15 goals from Cammalleri; and a standout year for exactly one of the rookies. That could be enough if the defensemen hold it down. We’ll go over that tomorrow.

Talking Points