Tonight’s preseason matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks may have merely been an appetizer for tonight’s second China game for many. For the management (and for any interested observers), however, this was an opportunity, one that most coaches would kill for. We got to watch a bunch of players with very little experience and very little shot of cracking the NHL — aside from a few exceptions — take on a largely NHL-quality squad. One game does not an evaluation make, but how valuable is it to watch young forwards try to score on John Gibson while prospect defensemen and depth goalies try to stop Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg?
There were a number of players I wanted to keep an eye on tonight, and so I decided that no matter what, I’d try to pick out one thing that each player did tonight. Let’s go in numerical order and turn this into a recap of the Kings’ 4-2 defeat in Anaheim.
1: Jack Campbell. Campbell is a good place to start, as he had more to potentially gain than anybody tonight. Darcy Kuemper’s inclusion on the China roster seems to make him a strong favorite to back up Jonathan Quick, but Campbell will likely push Kuemper all the way, and tonight was an excellent showing as he stopped 19 of 20 shots. Campbell made one particularly impressive pad save on Andrew Cogliano as the first period wound down.
3: Chris Lee. Lee was not terrible, and he got a couple shout-outs from the Anaheim announcers’ booth for his speed and aggressiveness, but it was tough for him to make a real impact aside from the power play. He also couldn’t deal with a tricky lobbed puck before Anaheim’s empty-net game-sealer. He’s getting a look, though, and Stothers gave him multiple shots to kill penalties.
9: Brandon Prust. He fought Scott Sabourin, formerly of the Ontario Reign, and threw his weight around; his other minor penalty was a “good” one on an Ondrej Kase break.
10: Andrei Loktionov. The other KHL tryout player also struggled to distinguish himself for much of the game, but Loktionov did help free the puck from the boards prior to the Kings’ second goal.
19: Brett Sutter. Sutter got caught on the ice for multiple goals, but that can happen when you get the most ice time of any forward. Plentiful tough assignments and PK time.
29: Shane Harper. Harper got drilled by Francois Beauchemin; my apologies for not picking anything else for the former Florida Panther, but it was pretty obvious. But since you asked: Harper did have some jump and wasn’t shy about being physical despite being smaller.
34: Kale Clague. Good: made a difficult last-ditch stop on what looked like a sure goal for Derek Ryan. Bad: took an interference penalty on Scott Sabourin. Varied competition, varied results for by far the youngest member of tonight’s blueline.
40: Cal Petersen. Ensured that our lasting takeaway from this game would be about the goaltending. Gave up a flukish deflection and a tap-in which he did extremely well to even get a piece of, but otherwise had a strong performance and a show-stopping glove save on Nick Ritchie. If the goalies stay healthy, the Reign will be in great shape.
45: Alex Lintuniemi. I was happy to see a good showing from the tall Finn, who’s been in danger of getting lost in the shuffle in the pipeline. Looked composed, did some crease-clearing, defused a 2-on-1, and was pretty good on the PK until his unit got caught on the ice for way too long.
47: Andrew Crescenzi. He’s become a surprisingly useful situational piece for Mike Stothers, which is probably why Stothers had him taking so many PK draws.
50: Jaret Anderson-Dolan. I wanted to see more of him, but he flashed some speed and got to jump in during the 6-on-5 toward game’s end.
52: Mike Amadio. Really, really liked his game. Within 20 seconds on the power play, he got himself into position for a nice tip on net, then created space for himself and got a shot on net (and an assist when the rebound was slam-dunked in). Otherwise looked more than comfortable in all three zones, and was the Kings’ best center by far.
53: Kevin Gravel. If Campbell had the most to gain tonight, Gravel had the most to lose. Made a heroic effort to briefly delay a Silfverberg empty-netter, but with Zac Leslie pursuing the puck, left just enough room for Chris Wagner to set up Mitch Hults with the eventual game-winner. We haven’t seen the last of him, but a start in Ontario might be in the cards given his waiver exemption.
54: Philippe Maillet. He’s been consistently noticeable against younger competition; against more experienced guys tonight, he still had some jump.
55: Boko Imama. Fought (with fists) shortly after Prust did, but if we’re talking about actual hockey stuff, fought (for the puck) hard to keep one of LA’s better cycles of the night going. He’ll win plenty of battles either way.
62: Zac Leslie. Leslie was all over the place, playing well on the PK but also finding himself in difficult spots as the Ducks’ superior talent took over in the game’s second half. Seemingly didn’t leave the defensive zone, which was probably good practice even as the frustration mounted.
64: Matt Luff. I don’t think any player has done more for himself in camp than Luff; he added another goal tonight by driving in on the wing and banking a puck in (inadvertently?) off Josh Manson. He also got plenty of power play time and could have picked up an assist if not for a great Gibson save on Amadio. Doesn’t look like he’ll need a fourth year in the OHL.
78: Alex Iafallo. A largely quiet night, and a bit of a missed opportunity as he started on LA’s “top line” but didn’t get many chances to prove himself. Got plowed into by Anderson-Dolan on the power play, which was fun.
79: Justin Auger. Did exactly what he needed to do; he got to the front of the net and converted a rebound to open the scoring, made a few hits, and drew a penalty. He was a handful and he made an impression.
81: Matt Roy. He didn’t play as much as the other blueliners, but he put in some good shifts in a more offensively heavy role. Despite that, he played on the PK and could be a flexible option for Stothers this season.
More familiar options will be on display in Beijing, but it was an informative evening despite LA’s inherent disadvantages.