Stephen Covey, in his self-improvement book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, said “Always think win-win” among his key points. For the 2019-20 Kings, it does look bleak so far. Yet, even though the author meant it differently, a win-win of sorts can very well happen for the Kings. Here’s how:
Strong in belief, Los Angeles can sneak into the playoffs and advance a round. Of course, they will need a turnaround or two between now and early April. This can happen from a combination of call-ups from one of the best AHL teams so far meeting or exceeding expectations, trades, the current players showing excellence of execution of Coach Todd McLellan’s system on both sides of the puck, in all three zones and on special teams, and a hot goalie. Let’s consider it playing with house money if they do get at it that way.
And yes, there could be rock bottom 2.0 though. It’s okay. If the Kings really bottom out and get the highest probability to land the number one overall pick in June 2020, they can get Alexis Lafreniere. Keep tabs on that name. Through 16 games so far for his QMJHL team Rimouski Oceanic, he has scored 12 goals and 39 points. It wouldn’t surprise anyone for him to play for the Kings in the 2020-21 season.
And if they miss out on Lafreniere, then Quinton Byfield isn’t too shabby. Through 16 games for his OHL team, the Sudbury Wolves, he’s just a shade under a 2 points per game pace with 31 points in 16 games, with 11 goals. Then again, the Los Angeles Kings can just figure it out as the rest of the season plays out, and still enjoy the already strong prospect pool. In spite of the losing, it’s still win-win.
The hype surrounding Alex Turcotte has to be at least somewhat legit. There hasn’t been a time in recent memory when the city of Los Angeles had broadcast access to an out-of-market college hockey team due to said team having a highly-touted prospect. It can’t be too different to when the celebrities came out to Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus for the lone year of Lonzo Ball (love him or hate him, or his father Lavar Ball). Turcotte is currently on a 2-point per game pace, to boot.
So between 2021 and 2025, the Los Angeles Kings could exceed the success of 2012 and 2014. Imagine Anze Kopitar as a third line center, still able to contribute 40-60 points for a full season. By no means would it be a slight on him, but rather a testament to the already developed games, to name a few, of Alex Turcotte, Gabe Vilardi, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Rasmus Kupari, Akil Thomas, maybe Lafreniere or Byfield, and Arthur Kaliyev. If the latter’s defense is still suspect, put him on a line with Selke winner Kopitar.
It can’t be too unthinkable to see Drew Doughty as a second or third pair defenseman. Again, not a slight on him as much as an emphasis on the embarrassment of riches on the back end the franchise can have. Tobias Bjornfot, MIkey Anderson, Kale Clague, Sean Walker, Cole Hults, and Jordan Spence can really step their games up within that window. The goalie pool also gives hope to make noise, more so rubber on foam and far less swish. There literally are too many names among the forwards and the defense that I didn’t mention who can make significant impacts.
Think of this prospect pool like a set of characters in the George Orwell novel “Animal Farm”. In particular, think of the litter of puppies that main villain Napoleon took in as his own at birth and reared them. In a matter of time, those puppies grew to become a vicious force that struck terror for the other farm animals, and were instrumental in helping Napoleon cease power on the farm. These Kings can do the same soon.
A Cup run very well can be possible. To be sure, there are only so many roster spots for all those prospects. Iron sharpens iron. The sharpest would stay, the rest get shipped out for final puzzle pieces. 16 wins with fewer than 2012’s four losses shouldn’t be considered too farfetched.
Lastly, the Los Angeles Kings can win it all with players that various demographics in this city can identify with. Their prospect pool is increasingly diverse, showing that hockey players can come from any background. Players like Jordan Spence, born in Australia and raised in Japan, can attract attention and gain fans from the Asian community. The same can be said of prospects like Akil Thomas, who can give black youth a player to look up to. And the LGBT community can embrace the team thanks to Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Hockey can truly be for everyone, thanks to the Los Angeles Kings.