Ah yes, the curious case of Trevor Lewis. Fans love him as he is the heart and soul of his team. The Los Angeles Kings organization agrees—the 31-year-old forward has won the team’s Unsung Hero award for the seventh consecutive year. The organization has even produced a video to show you why:
Trevor Lewis was originally projected to a scorer in the NHL. But as stated in the video, Lewis ended up lacking offensive hands, even compared to those selected behind him in the 2006 NHL Draft. They include superstar Claude Giroux (677 points in 738 games), and other mainstays such as Chris Stewart (321 points in 652 games) and Nick Foligno (400 points in 768 games). The top players in this draft? None other than Phil Kessel, Jonathan Toews, and Nicklas Backstrom.
Compared to the production of these players, Lewis has been far behind (139 points in 574 games). In his first eight seasons, the 17th overall pick has not reached 10 goals in a single season. Compare this to his teammates Adrian Kempe (29th pick in 2014) who has scored 16 goals in his second season, and Tyler Toffoli who has scored (47th pick in 2010) who has scored 12 in his second season. Kempe and Toffoli are slated to be the offensive future of the Kings. In contrast, Lewis has mainly played on the third and fourth lines, occasionally plugging in elsewhere as needed. He is little used on the power play, averaging only 0:29 of ice time with the man advantage.
So why is the Utah-born forward so valuable? It is this:
Then Jeff Carter was penalized and the Islanders threatened with some dangerous chances against [Darcy] Kuemper. With 1:01 remaining in the period, Trevor Lewis was not satisfied with the puck cleared merely to center ice. Playing without a stick for most of the shift, he dove toward the puck to push it all the way down the Islanders zone! Smart penalty killing, and amazing effort to make the line change easier for his teammates! (Remember, the second period requires long changes by both teams.)
That was from my game recap against the New York Islanders on October 15, 2017. Lewis made a reputation as a defensive specialist and penalty killing mainstay. He was eighth among Kings players with average time on ice in the penalty kill (1:39). Where he lacks offensively, he makes up for it with positioning and intelligent decisions. Lewis makes few defensive mistakes and can be counted on to sacrifice individual glory to make the play that is best for the team. He has a knack for disrupting the opposing offense. For a team formerly coached by the system-oriented, defense-first Darryl Sutter, what’s not to love.
But all of a sudden, a little over halfway into 2017-18 and Lewis already has 10 goals to add to his defensive game! Could Lewis score 20? Alas, a February 9 injury sidelined him for a month, ending that dream. But Lewis still finished with a career-high 14. Check out this montage by Conyo 19:
Seeing this video, I am mindblown. Are we finally seeing offensive hands? Where was his ability to position himself for a breakaway, or to be in front of the net, or to be wide open for a skill shot? Where were those all this time? Looking back, we wonder if the philosophy of Darryl Sutter may have stunted Lewis’ offensive growth, as Lewis was willing to humbly accept a defensive utility role, sacrificing himself for the team. Lewis was one of several that benefited from John Stevens’ loosening of the reins.
So will Lewis finally score 20 next season, and be the first-rounder that he is? I’m afraid not. The Western Conference keeps getting better and better, and the threat is astounding. Rival San Jose re-signed Evander Kane, rising Calgary signed Derek Ryan and James Neal, and pesky Vegas signed Paul Stastny. Even the St. Louis Blues shored up their ranks with Tyler Bozak and Patrick Maroon. As a result, the offensive challenges of the Kings will continue as their competition improves. But Lewis, by adding offense to his repertoire, will cement his position this season as an indispensable two-way asset for the third and fourth lines of the Kings. After 2020, however, his $2 million per year contract will expire, and fans will thank him for everything he has done for the Kings. He is too overpriced for a utility player, and the team will make room for younger, rising players with superior offensive ability and upside.