Signed as a college free agent out of the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2017, Alex Iafallo has been one of the most valuable assets Rob Blake has brought during his time as the Los Angeles Kings general manager. Since his rookie season, his play has continued to improve, and this year, he finally seems to have turned a corner.
Alex Iafallo Breaking Out
How He Started
When he first joined the Kings, Iafallo was one of few young players on the team, being one of the first in their youth injection. The organization quickly gained trust in him, and he found himself becoming a regular on Anze Kopitar‘s line. While technically being a top-line player, Iafallo started off as a more complementary piece to the Kopitar line.
He was the kind of player that suited the line well, providing some much-needed speed along with the willingness to grind, determination to win puck battles, and ability to finish off a play. Starting out though, he was not a major offensive threat, but more just there to clean up any rebounds or finish off any plays created by Kopitar and usually Dustin Brown. We see this as he put up numbers that were more similar to those of a third-line player rather than a top-six driver.
Alex Iafallo Career Production
Our first example of this is his numbers from the 2017-18 season. In 75 games played, he scored nine goals and 16 assists for 25 points. This trend seemed to continue, as, in the 2018-19 season, he put up similar counting stats, with a slight improvement. In 82 games, he scored 15 goals and 18 assists for 33 points. While the point total was similar, we can see a decent increase in his goal production.
The following season, he began to further improve, establishing himself as a reliable middle-six player who complimented the top-line well. In 70 games, he scored 17 goals and 26 assists with a total of 43 points. This put him on pace to score about 20 goals and 50 points in a full season, a very solid stat-line for a young player. As we can see, his numbers started to border here on more of the upper end of a middle-six player. Then in the 2020-21 season, we saw him hold on to this improved production. In 55 games, Iafallo posted 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points. This put him on pace to score about 19 goals and 50 points once again.
This brings us to the present day, where Iafallo is having the best start of his career. While the past few seasons he has bordered on that middle-six line, this year, he is breaking out even further and establishing himself as a top-six player. Through 15 games, he has six goals and seven assists for 13 points. This puts him at a 0.81 point-per-game and 33-goal pace. While it may not be likely Iafallo sustains the exact pace he’s on this season, seeing him have such a productive start is very encouraging.
If he can finish in the 25-goal, 55-60 point range, which seems fairly obtainable at this point, the Kings organization and their fans should be enthralled. Especially given the contract extension Iafallo got last summer, which seems like a steal at this point.
A Deeper Dive
We cannot, however, measure Alex Iafallo’s impact solely through counting stats. Looking into advanced stats will show us that Iafallo’s impact has been made in areas off of the score sheet as well. For example, according to Evolving Hockey, he has a WAR (wins above replacement) of 0.6, ranking 39th overall in the NHL. This shows the spectacular defensive impact Iafallo has had as well. He’s been able to effectively defend against opposing teams while also providing adequate offence, giving his team a better chance to win.
So, Iafallo is finally breaking out and becoming a bonafide top-six player of LA. What changed, however, that is making him play so well? Well, first of all, we can compare his possession metrics, provided by Natural Stat Trick, with his from last season (please keep in mind this is comparing a small sample size to a fairly large one). Last year, Iafallo had a five-on-five Corsi percentage of about 52 percent, which is pretty good. This essentially tells us that a little over half the time Iafallo was on the ice, the Kings had possession of the puck. This year, however, his Corsi is up to about 58 percent, which is an absolutely dominant number.
Additionally, Iafallo’s xG (expected goals) percentage has seen a major increase from this year compared to last year. Last season, he had an xG percentage of about 49 percent. This season, however, it’s up to about 55 percent. This means that 55 percent of the scoring chances happening when Iafallo is on the ice are for, rather than against the Kings. This speaks to both the offensive and defensive impacts Iafallo has had this season. He has been able to limit opponents scoring chances while also creating them.
With newfound chemistry with the Kings big free-agent addition, Phillip Danault, Alex Iafallo has really come into his own. He is finally starting to break out, something that Kings fans have been waiting to see for a long time, and it is significantly impacting the team.