Even though the Los Angeles Kings won’t be playing games for a while, it could still be a good idea to get a head start on what the 2020-21 Los Angeles Kings lineup could look like. This team has a lot of potentials, and a few tough calls to make to see who gets on the roster. The hardest part is deciding which forwards should make it, and which ones should spend another year with the Ontario Reign, as the Kings have a surplus of young talent up front, although not everyone is quite NHL ready.
Figuring Out the 2020-21 Los Angeles Kings Roster
The First Line
This top-line should look like Alex Iafallo at left-wing, Anze Kopitar at center, and Dustin Brown at right-wing, as it has been the Kings first line for years now. Over the past few seasons, they have done quite well together and been the Kings main (and sometimes only) source of offence. They’ve developed good chemistry and have a varied mix of skill sets. While they had an off-year in 2019-20, so did pretty much the entire roster, so don’t be too harsh on all of them.
They can more than likely bounce back, especially now that they’ve had a year under the new system with coach Todd McLellan. The Kings power-play will also get a spark with the additions of Gabriel Vilardi, Carl Grundstrom, Kale Clague, and a full year of Martin Frk; this could increase the stats for those top-line guys, as they will each see a good deal of power-play time.
The Second Line
As far as the second line goes, it’s the most boom-or-bust line on this team. After his 10 game NHL sample, Vilardi has proven that he deserves the 2C spot on this Kings team. He has the potential to be a real 2C for the Kings for the 2020-21 season, something they’ve been lacking since Jeff Carter’s injury and rapid decline. Adding another solid contributor down the middle in Vilardi could benefit this team greatly.
For the left-wing, it’s a no brainer, Adrian Kempe is the obvious choice. Kempe is a player with tons of speed, skill, and overall talent; and every year Kings fans wonder if it will be the year where he turns all of those assets into legitimate top-six production. With the steps he’s taken in his development playing three NHL seasons now, the 2020-2021 season will hopefully be the year Kempe breaks out. Having Vilardi center him will really benefit him as well, as he is a very talented center who’s a bit of a step up from Blake Lizotte, Kempe’s center for the majority of the 2019-2020 season.
The line two right-wing is somewhat of a hot take, but Carl Grundstrom is the guy in my eyes. The 2020-2021 season should be his first full one in the NHL, and he has the potential to make a decent impact for the Kings. Grundstrom was one of the Reign’s top players in 2019-2020 and is a very talented goal scorer. While his shot might not be as hard as Martin Frk’s 109.2 mph missile, he still has a knack for scoring goals. Let’s just say they called him Carl Goalstrom for a reason down in Ontario.
Justifying Grundstrom in the Top-Six
A big reason Grundstrom should be in that lineup spot, however, is his chemistry with the other guys. In Ontario during the 2019-2020 season, Grundstrom was almost always put on Vilardi’s wing, and they did very well together. With regards to Kempe, both Grundstrom and Kempe came up through MODO of the SHL, and while they did not play on the team together, they know each other well.
When the Kings traded Jake Muzzin to the Maple Leafs for Grundstrom and others, Kempe was giving some scouting reports on Grundstrom. When referring to his goal-scoring abilities, Kempe stated, “he’s a really good goal scorer as well. In the Swedish league, he had almost 20 goals a couple seasons ago, and that’s pretty hard when you’re 18 or 19 years old.” Overall, this is a line that has a lot of potential, and player development will really dictate how they do together.
The Third Line
The third line is a pretty easy decision: Frk, Lizotte, and Carter. There doesn’t need to be too much explaining for this one, these players are simply the best remaining forwards on the team. Frk, Lizotte, and Carter should provide some secondary scoring for the Kings, something they’ve been missing for a very long time.
Carter still has some value as a third line scorer and Frk wants to prove he can be a middle-six contributor in the NHL. Lizotte playing between the two should add an element of speed and grit. Even though Lizotte is just 5’7”, he does a lot of dirty work and engages in board play frequently.
The Fourth Line
Starting with the center, the time is now for Jaret Anderson-Dolan, as he is ready to be a full-time NHLer. He had a really solid first pro season and was one of the best, and most relied upon players for the Reign in 2019-2020. Anderson-Dolan is at center over Michael Amadio because of his offensive upside, along with a very good, responsible two-way game. Anderson-Dolan’s game is considered a coach’s dream, and every coach he’s had has absolutely adored him. Even with Anderson-Dolan’s talent, Amadio will definitely get his fair share of games and rotate in at either center or one of the wings on the fourth line.
For the left-wing spot, it goes to Trevor Moore. Moore is just a good, speedy depth guy who can play reliable defence while also providing a little offensive spark for the fourth line.
Speaking of speed, the right-wing spot goes to the fastest guy on the team, Austin Wagner. Wagner is just so ridiculously fast, it’s almost unfair. The only thing holding him back from being a consistent scorer is his finishing ability. He generates plenty of scoring chances, yet he scores on very few of them. Wagner even joked with Vilardi on a Zoom call, saying, “If you teach me how to score on a breakaway, I’ll teach you how to get fast.” Both Wagner and Matt Luff could end up splitting the season in that fourth line right-wing spot.
The First Pairing
For the defence, it is pretty straight forward. The top pairing will likely be Drew Doughty and a UFA who will be signed later, possibly Nikita Nesterov of the KHL, as there have been some rumors of the Kings being linked to him. Rob Blake expressed the need for a left side D, and he said he will attempt to address it in free agency. There’s also the chance of the team re-signing Ben Hutton and using him in this top-pairing role.
The Second Pairing
The second pair should include Mikey Anderson on the left and Matt Roy on the right. They played a few games together in 2019-2020, most of which the Kings won. The two of them just clicked, as Anderson is more of a stay at home guy, and Roy is an offensive defenceman. Roy was arguably the best defenceman for the Kings in 2019-2020 and should look to be having another solid year in 2020-2021, especially if he gets to play with a guy like Anderson, who’s one of the Kings’ better prospects. Anderson plays a really steady game, and his defensive abilities could definitely complement Roy’s offensive ones.
The Third Pairing
For the third pairing, Sean Walker will be on the right side, partnered with one of the Kings’ best prospects, Kale Clague, on the left. This pairing could end up being the most exciting one to watch, as Clague and Walker are both very smooth-skating, offensive defenceman.
As far as an extra defenceman goes, the Kings liked Kurtis MacDermid‘s physical presence, so he should get rotated into the third pairing on the left side for a few games, especially if some of the rookies start to burn out later in the year, or if it’s a rivalry game where the physical aspect could be more present.
Finally, for goaltending, both Cal Petersen and Jonathan Quick will share the crease pretty much equally. Don’t be shocked, though, if Petersen ends up stealing more games from Quick as the season progresses. With Quick on the decline and Petersen on the incline, he’s poised to surpass him at some point.
Overall, this team will be significantly better than the prior two seasons, as they have really added from within the organization with Frk, Vilardi, Grundstrom, Clague, Anderson, and Petersen. Without getting anyone’s hopes too high, this team could potentially be in contention for a wild card spot if all goes well.