With the 2019-20 NHL season more than a quarter of the way over, the Jewels from the Crown staff have put their heads together to answer some burning questions about the team’s performance this season. Earlier in the week, we talked about surprises and disappointments so far. Today, we make some bold predictions.
Which players in the AHL are you looking forward to getting to see in NHL action this season?
Julius: Since being drafted No. 11 overall to the Kings in 2017, the start of Gabriel Vilardi’s professional career has been a frustrating one. Ongoing issues with his back forced him to only play four games in 2018-19. He made his season debut this year for Ontario back on Nov. 22. It seems like he is on a good track towards recovery and only time will tell once he gets more reps in the AHL level but I would not be surprised if the parent club calls him up in late February/March.
Michael: Oh gosh I am so tired of the Jaret Anderson-Dolan hype. Over-rated and overhyped. I’m done until he proves me wrong. They guys I want to see are Alex Turcotte and Arthur Kaliyev. They are the true future. The rest aren’t going to move the needle like everyone thinks they will.
James N.: Mikey Anderson.
Filip: Rasmus Kupari, Sean Durzi, Kyle Clague, Gabe Vilardi, there are plenty of those. I’m pretty sure I would love to see those guys take learning steps in the AHL. Maybe a few games for the experience in the NHL, but don’t disrupt their progress. There is no need to rush anybody.
Dominic: Gabriel Vilardi, presuming he’s in shape to play back-to-backs by then. Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Matt Luff, Carl Grundstrom, Mikey Anderson, and Tobias Bjornfot to some extent as well.
Robyn: Matt Luff. I’m curious to see if he’s able to put it all together in NHL and if he can be more than a tweener.
James L.: Jaret Anderson-Dolan. The Kings continue to be high on him and I’m excited to see if he’ll be a star in the league. Also Tobias Bjornfot—he already has NHL skill and is loved by Drew Doughty, but was sent to Ontario. Next year will be a breakout year for Bjornfot.
Oh, and remember Gabe Vilardi? (Fingers crossed)
Sarah: Of players not currently on the NHL roster or who haven’t been up and down yet already, I’m looking forward to seeing more of Mikey Anderson. He’s already been settling in to his role well on the Reign, and on some occasions has been called out by Mike Stothers as one of the better players on the team on otherwise dreadful nights.
Who’s on the roster right now who won’t be here in March?
Julius: No one will bat an eye if one were to say that Jonathan Quick is the best netminder in LA Kings history. Quite simply because he is. His 2011-12 post season performance was the main reason a Cup was delivered for the first time in franchise history and that alone could allow him to get his number retired but it is time to move on. His performance this season doesn’t warrant his $5.8 million that he will continue to make until 2022-23. I mean the Philadelphia Flyers are entrusting a man who just qualified for drinking age (Carter Hart) and I don’t see why the Kings wouldn’t take a chance on Jack Campbell for a starting role. Even if it is for one season.
Michael: In my Perspectives column, I wrote that there were three players who held trade value. Every word I predicted is true: “That leaves Toffoli, Lewis, and Martinez. I am sure by the time other teams start sending scouts two of those three will be injured and the other will still be snakebit in an effort to get his shooting percentage over ten per cent.” So I predict Toffoli.
James N.: Derek Forbort, Tyler Toffoli.
Filip: I guess, Ilya Kovalchuk? Add Tyler Toffoli to the list, the Kings will trade him.
Dominic: It pains me to say this, but Jonathan Quick. I say it in hopes that it actually doesn’t happen. He’s the best goalie the franchise has ever known. He will complete the Los Angeles professional sports hat trick of retired #32s, joining the Dodgers Sandy Koufax and the Lakers Magic Johnson. Unless the Kings make a serious run at a playoff spot (2019 St. Louis Blues of sorts), his starts feel like a showcase to other teams who might need a goalie for the playoffs.
Robyn: ♀️ At this point, it could be virtually anyone but signs seem to point to Tyler Toffoli.
James L.: Toffoli. As a pending UFA he is the easiest to trade. And he has not done enough to build a case that the Kings should pay money to retain him.
Sarah: Toffoli, who I can only hope somehow winds up on the Canucks so he can be reunited with Tanner Pearson. Plus Kovalchuk, naturally.
What happens with Ilya Kovalchuk?
Julius: The organization’s actions of benching Ilya Kovalchuk alone provides an ample read on the situation. Kovalchuk’s time in Los Angeles, albeit a short one, is over. And I have a hard time believing that he would even be able to find a gig in the NHL anymore either. He’s isn’t the same player he used to be and already once bailed on a league that made him a millionaire. So it seems to me that he will go back to Russia to resume his hockey career and perhaps focus on family life as well.
Michael: All of this pains me. I was Kovalchuk’s biggest supporter since he willed the Devils to the 2012 Final and then fell apart. I hope the Kings aren’t dumb and trade the short term pain of the next 140+ games he has under contract for some weird buyout or trading for the likes of Kyle Turris or some other underperformer. Suck it up and move on after next season.
James N.: No one trades for him and he hangs out around TSC.
Filip: That’s clear I think. The Kings get rid of him at some point. A trade would be very complicated. The contract’s termination is not out of question, even though improbable. Let’s wait for December 15 first. My best guess: Los Angeles trades him and retains some salary. That may assure them receiving at least some draft choice in such a trade.
Dominic: Returns to the KHL after December 15.
Robyn: He has one more year left on his contract so I suspect nothing. And I mean literally nothing. It’s basically dead cap space because he’s got a 35+ contract which means potential cap recapture penalties up the wazoo.
James L.: Nothing. Unfortunately he has a difficult personality combination for sports: flashes of brilliance, combined with laziness and an independent streak. As a result, rather than play for his pride elsewhere, he will sit and pocket his $6M this year, and his $4.25M next year.
Sarah: I expect he and the Kings to agree to mutually terminate his contract, or whatever fancy business words you want to put it in, after his December bonus gets paid. He returns to the KHL, the Kings have some dead cap space this season and next, and we all pretend this never happened.
What’s your prediction for the team at the end of the season?
Julius: The Kings will probably finish in last place in the Pacific Division for the second consecutive year and while tanking increases the chances of getting the top pick in the 2020 draft, it’s no guarantee. So I’ll say the Kings will reach the 80-point threshold when the dust settles.
Michael: Expect a finish around 25th place. Decent at home / lousy on the road. The Kings will be the King of the Draft Lottery. The hockey gods made Los Angeles pay a price for the Willie D. Tank Job but this year, the ping pong balls will fall in the right spot.
James N.: Last in the west but are able to play spoiler to San Jose making the playoffs with a big win in March.
Filip: I can see the Kings finishing seventh in the Pacific Division, they can beat the Ducks, but won’t climb further. As for the draft lottery, it’s always about luck. However, the 2020 NHL Draft is almost as important as the 2019-20 season itself. Important steps in the rebuild, to say the least.
Dominic: It’s a tough call. as it’s anyone’s guess who shows up between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. If the Kings somehow make a serious run at a playoff spot, they might hang on to key veterans. But if not, they might have trouble trading away those same veterans. I will go with the Kings finishing between 10 and 12 in the Western Conference. They are due for good fortune in the draft lottery, getting a Top 5 pick, regardless of their finish among 9th or last in the conference.
Robyn: I predict an 84-85 point and another 5th place pick. I sincerely doubt that they’ll actually sniff the top-2 considering how deep this draft is supposed to be.
James L.: The Kings will be a bubble team, missing the playoffs by about 5 points. It means they won’t make a splash in this summer’s draft. However, the team has enough talent in the pipeline to become competitive again starting next year.
Sarah: Last, or maybe next-to-last in the Pacific Division. They miss out on a top three draft pick because the universe is cruel.