The Los Angeles Kings have had some unexpected success so far this season. They have been surprising teams with their play, and a major factor of that is one of their goaltenders, Cal Petersen, who has had an exceptional start. Cal Petersen’s success should not come as a shock though. He has been labeled as the heir to Jonathan Quick ever since he signed in Los Angeles.
Looking Into the Success of Cal Petersen in His 2020-21 Campaign
Petersen, the 26-year-old netminder, was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 draft by the Buffalo Sabres. He played three seasons for Notre Dame in the NCAA prior to turning pro. Once he made the decision to leave college hockey, Petersen also elected to explore the free agency market and not sign with the team that drafted him.
This was when newly hired Kings general manager Rob Blake had to capitalize on the opportunity to bring young talent into the organization. Blake made an impressive pitch to Petersen, doing everything he could to get the young goalie to come to Los Angeles. As soon as Petersen had chosen Los Angeles to be his new home, Blake knew that he had found the team’s eventual replacement for Jonathan Quick. With Petersen’s skill level and determination, all it would take was the proper development.
Cal Petersen’s success can be attributed to two people other than himself. Those people are Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford and ex-Kings goaltending development coach Dusty Imoo. The experience of the two coaches was a valuable part of both recruiting and developing Petersen. They have each spent a lot of time working on, tuning, and improving Petersen’s game.
Time With the Ontario Reign
Once he left Notre Dame, Cal Petersen headed to the Ontario Reign to begin his time with the Kings organization. Petersen would spend three seasons in Ontario developing his game. During the 2017-18 season, he was named an AHL all-star, showing a strong start to his professional career. The following year, Petersen earned his first NHL call-up following some injuries. He played in 11 games for the Kings, posting a save percentage of .924 and a goals-against-average of 2.60.
In the 2019-20 season, Petersen was once again named an AHL all-star. He was a workhorse for the Reign, as then-coach Mike Stothers would consistently play him in both games of back-to-backs. Petersen had averaged 31 saves a game that season. Once the Kings had traded away goaltender Jack Campbell, Petersen would see another short NHL stint, this time only eight games due to the season’s pause.
Petersen’s Impressive 2020-21 Season
Once the 2020-21 NHL season rolled around, Petersen had become a full-time NHL player. He and Jonathan Quick now share starts with the Kings, splitting time just about evenly. As the season has progressed, Petersen has played just how Rob Blake envisioned he eventually would when he was a college free agent. When looking at the way he has been developed, and the people who have helped him grow, Cal Petersen’s success should not come as a surprise.
Cal Petersen has not only been successful this season, but he has also been dominant. When looking at his stats and comparing them to other NHL goaltenders with at least 10 NHL games played this season, Petersen looks very impressive. Through 12 games so far, Petersen has a save percentage of .924. This puts him sixth in the league in save percentage. He also has a goals-against-average of 2.47, good for twelfth in the league.
Petersen’s numbers become even more impressive when we dive into advanced stats. According to MoneyPuck, Petersen has 3.4 goals saved above expected (expected goals against – goals against). While still comparing to goalies with at least 10 games played this season, this ranks Petersen sixth in the NHL in that stat. Additionally, according to Evolving Hockey, Petersen has a WAR (wins above replacement) value of 2.1. This puts him third in the NHL, behind just Andrei Vasilevskiy and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Ever since he hit the free-agent market, the Los Angeles Kings have seen Cal Petersen as a star. With patience and detailed development, they have been able to turn him into exactly that. His play has been a major factor in putting them right into the West Division playoff race. Cal Petersen’s success should not come as a surprise, though, and it should not be stopping any time soon either.