While 24 teams participate in the play-in rounds and round-robin, there are still seven NHL teams, including the Los Angeles Kings, that will have to sit out. These seven teams haven’t played games since March, and likely won’t get to play until December. While a nine-month offseason is quite some time for a team to be away from the game, it still certainly has its benefits.
Benefits of the Long Los Angeles Kings Offseason
Resting the Players
Being a professional athlete can take a major toll on someone’s body, so getting ample rest is imperative for a player to perform at their best. While NHL players have the offseason to recover from the prior season, they don’t always get to spend a whole lot of it doing so. Realistically, they spend the majority of their time training and preparing for the following season. On top of training, they also often play in other games and tournaments.
While everyone could use some extra rest, there are some players who could use it more than others.
Resting Anze Kopitar
Anze Kopitar has played over 1,000 NHL games. On top of his long NHL career, he has taken on the role of being the leader and star player for Slovenia in international play. Needless to say, he has played a lot of hockey over his career.
Since 2013-14, Kopitar has played 551 regular-season NHL games. Along with that, Kopitar has played in 35 playoff games, 14 international tournament games, eight Olympic games, and six games for Team Europe in the Wolrd Cup of Hockey. Of those games, Kopitar played 20 during NHL offseasons and many of the playoff games deep into the summer.
Overall, Kopitar has been playing a lot of offseason hockey (and just hockey in general). With all of that hockey and his offseason training, he hasn’t always had the opportunity to be well-rested every season. Having an extended offseason will allow him to both rest and train, creating a balance for him entering the 2020-21 season.
Resting Cal Petersen
Even though Kings goaltender Cal Petersen was just a rookie this season, he had an incredibly heavy workload. Petersen started 37 games with the Ontario Reign, and eight games with the Los Angeles Kings. Petersen, who was called up on February 5th, played in all but ten games in his time with the Reign this year. He also started both games in seven back to back situations with the Reign, a feat practically unheard of in professional hockey.
In the NHL, Petersen was on the Kings roster for their final 16 games. He and Jonathan Quick evenly split those games starting eight apiece. Even while finishing his season in the NHL, Petersen was seventh in the AHL in both games played and minutes. He was also a workhorse for the Reign facing the third-most shots in the league.
So while Kopitar may have more fatigue from playing lots of minutes over many years, Petersen’s fatigue is more short term. A long offseason to get some extra rest should certainly benefit Petersen allowing his body to recover and be prepared to play in the NHL next season.
A Healthy Gabriel Vilardi
While rest is important during the offseason, so is training. This offseason should be the first one of Gabriel Vilardi’s where he is fully healthy since he’s been drafted. Instead of spending the extended Los Angeles Kings offseason focusing on rehabbing, Vilardi gets to focus on actually getting better and stronger.
Finally, training during the offseason should allow for Vilardi to pinpoint his flaws and try to improve upon them. Since being drafted, skating was always an issue for Vilardi. Having extra time to improve on that along with other areas of his game should greatly benefit him.
The Kings have 11 picks in the 2020 draft, six of which are in the first three rounds. With such a high volume of picks, GM Rob Blake will get to put the majority of his attention there. He has more time than usual to spend with Mark Yannetti and the rest of the scouting department evaluating players. This should assure he makes the right decisions on draft day.
With all of this time on their hands, Blake and the scouting department will be able to go more in-depth on more prospects. While this might not affect the first few rounds, it provides great value in the later rounds if they can find a player they like over another one for a specific reason. This reason might not be found had they not had the extra time to go more in-depth. All of this time could help uncover some hidden gems.
The Number Two Pick
Being with the scouts, Blake and they will have the opportunity to have many discussions and debates about the number two pick. They should get some important work done evaluating and comparing Quinton Byfield, Tim Stutzle, and others.
Although the Los Angeles Kings won’t see some game action for a while, they still have positives in their extended offseason. Being able to rest key players like Anze Kopitar and Cal Petersen will provide them value for the upcoming season. The ability of Gabe Vilardi to finally spend an offseason training rather than rehabbing should benefit them as well. On top of the long offseason helping their roster players, it will also allow for Rob Blake and the scouting department to do great work getting extended looks at players, making sure they draft the best ones for the team.