The Kings’ China roster wasn’t full of many surprises -- it’s made up largely of veterans, younger players who are already locks to make the team, and a few bubble players like Michael Mersch. But one name stood out as a somewhat unexpected choice: Oscar Fantenberg.
The Swedish defenseman signed a one year contract in May, good for $925,000. Fantenberg was largely expected to add to the competition for a spot on the blue line, especially after the departures of Brayden McNabb and Matt Greene, but ultimately, most people probably expected him to head to Ontario. Fantenberg is waivers-exempt, so he can easily be sent down, so the perception was that he’d get a few preseason games and then go on his way to Ontario to serve as defensive depth (even though the defense is already crowded there as it is).
But Fantenberg’s been impressive through training camp, enough so that he seems to have pushed past Kevin Gravel on the depth chart. Gravel’s stayed at home, taking on a bigger role among the remaining squad of AHL players and kids eventually going back to juniors, while Fantenberg’s been given the chance to shine on the China trip.
So who is Oscar Fantenberg?
The 25-year old Swede went undrafted, spending his career to date in the Swedish leagues and, last year, in the KHL, where he put up a professional career high 23 points in 44 games. He’s played for Team Sweden throughout his career and has been a part of championship teams while playing with Frölunda. In the KHL, Fantenberg was named to the All-Star team but didn’t play due to injury.
While Fantenberg could have easily continued his career in Russia, he wanted to take a chance to see if he could make it to the NHL. He’d apparently been on the Kings’ radar for quite some time, and now that his game has progressed to a point where he could more successfully make the jump to North America, the Kings’ scouting department felt it was time to give him a shot.
He’s already got his first goal in a Kings uniform, a nice quick shot as he rushed in to take a pass from Dustin Brown, who was positioned along the boards:
And if you’re wondering about Fantenberg’s hair regimen, Patrick O’Neil has you covered:
Scouting reports on Fantenberg typically put him in the shutdown defender category, though he also has special teams experience and can be a force on the power play. Fantenberg’s decision making, pace, and puck movement skills have been particularly praised. He could fit in well while adding some depth to the defense, providing a good puck-moving option for the third pairing.
Expect to see more of Fantenberg throughout the pre-season as the Kings evaluate him. Even if he winds up in Ontario, if he continues to establish himself the way he is now, it may not be long before he’s called back up.