After their first 47 games, the Los Angeles Kings power play has severely struggled. It currently sits at 16.3 percent, good for 27th in the NHL. The combination of personnel and strategy is just simply not working, and they need to shake things up. If LA really wants to be a playoff-contending team, their power play will simply have to be better.
How the Los Angeles Kings Power Play Can Be Fixed – Players
We can start with personnel, evaluating who currently is on the powerplay. Over the past few games, the Kings have lined up as:
Who Is Not Working
While the Los Angeles Kings power play is not lacking in offensive talent, the lines could definitely use a shake-up. We can start by looking at just sheer power play production. An alarming statistic that jumps out is Dustin Brown’s in particular. Through 44 games this year, Brown has just one point on the man advantage. While it is true that he provides value by screening goaltenders, tipping pucks, and muscling his way to the net, there are others who can do this job, and frankly, produce more while doing so.
Overall, Brown has had a fairly underwhelming year. The Kings like having him in the bottom-six to help mentor the young players, but other than that he has not brought much value to the team this season.
Before you get all up in arms, let’s clarify. Danault has been a fantastic player for the Kings this season. He has been worth every penny, if not more, and the impact he has made on improving this team is immeasurable. With that said, however, his playstyle is just not the kind that allows him to thrive on the power play. Like Brown, through 45 games, Danault has just one power play point. He is a great puck battler, can make effective passes, and has decent finishing ability in tight. However, it might be more effective to have a natural offensive talent in his spot on the power play instead. Someone who thrives in all of those areas (but more about that later). Rather than taking him completely off of the Los Angeles Kings power play though, the best option for him could just be sliding him over to the wing.
Who On Unit Two Needs a Promotion
Over the past month or so, Viktor Arvidsson has been one of the Kings’ most productive players. His game finally seems to be clicking again, and he is consistently putting up points. through 40 games, Arvidsson has scored seven power play points, tied for third on the team. He leads all Kings forwards in power play points per game as well. Yet, he still finds himself on the second power play unit. At this point in the season, there is absolutely no reason for Arvidsson to still be on the second unit. He is easily one of the most talented forwards on the Kings’ roster, and promoting him to the top unit should give them the spark they have been missing.
Replacement Options in the NHL
So, if theoretically, Arvidsson takes Brown’s spot on the top unit and Danault is moved to the wing on the second unit, then that would leave the second unit centre spot open. If Danault is completely taken off the power play, then that would leave a winger spot on unit two open as well. Luckily for the Kings, their organization has some options to fill those spots.
The best player to fill the centre spot in the second unit is Quinton Byfield. Despite being just 19-years-old, Byfield is one of the Kings’ most talented offensive players. Kings’ coach Todd McLellan has been sheltering Byfield a little bit though, giving him just 11:35 on average per game. Giving Byfield more ice-time will only benefit this team, however. His skill set perfectly matches the Kings’ identity, and his talent will only make them better. Adding his speed, size, smarts, passing ability, hands, and shot would be an upgrade to the Los Angeles Kings power play right now.
Overall, Byfield’s absence from the man advantage already is quite puzzling. During Byfield’s season debut, Adrian Kempe was in Covid-protocol, meaning there was a hole in the top unit. McLellan chose to play Byfield in Kempe’s place on the power play that game, and he looked quite good. He did not seem out of place whatsoever and was consistently making smart, effective plays. However, once Kempe returned to the lineup, Byfield was bumped off of the power play completely. One would think that if McLellan gave Byfield a chance to play with the top unit, and he succeeded, he would at least see time on the second unit when Kempe returned, but questionably, this is not the case.
If the Kings opt to take Danault off the power play completely, Trevor Moore could end up being a viable option for the time being. While he ideally would not be a long-term replacement, he could be a placeholder on unit two until a prospect like Samuel Fagemo or Tyler Madden comes up to potentially steal the spot. Moore was red hot through the month of January though and has been an excellent complimentary player on the second line. If the Kings put him in a net-front position to be a disrupter, he could find some success.
Replacement Options in the AHL
If the Kings do not want to go to some of the options they have on the NHL roster, they could always look down to the Ontario Reign to bring in some more talent. The Reign currently have the highest power play percentage in the entire AHL, clicking at a whopping 28.1 percent. So, it would not be a terrible idea for LA to look to them for some help.
It remains a bit of a mystery why Gabriel Vilardi is still in the AHL. While the Kings organization has said they want to move him to wing and give him reps, he is thriving and is every bit deserving of a call-up. He is over a point-per-game player right now, and through 27 games he has 12 power play points. Vilardi’s hands, passing, shot, and puck protection skills make him an incredibly valuable player on the power play, and something Los Angeles would certainly benefit from. If the Kings allowed him to distribute the puck from the point, he could be very successful and improve the man advantage.
Another, less conventional option the Kings could look to is Vladimir Tkachev. Signed out of the KHL at the beginning of the year, the Kings were not entirely sure what they were going to get with Tkachev. He started the season in the NHL but did not really get a chance to be fully looked at, being sent down after just four games. With the Reign, despite only playing 21 games, Tkachev is nearly a point-per-game player.
The real charm of Tkachev’s game, however, is his power play dominance. He is a natural facilitator and is an incredibly creative player. He thrives on the man advantage, but some think a little too much. Through his 21 AHL games, Tkachev has an impressive seven power play points, however, a big critique of his game is that his even-strength play is somewhat sub-par. So ultimately, the Kings could have a power play weapon in Tkachev, but they would need to decide if his special teams play is worth having him around in a middle-six role as well.
Tied for second in the AHL in goals with 21, it’s no secret that Martin Frk is a natural goal scorer. Arguably one of the best shooters in the world, Mr. 109.2 has a shot that is feared by many goaltenders. If he was assigned the role of a trigger man on the Los Angeles Kings power play, he would almost certainly make his unit more successful. Even his mere presence at the top of the left face-off circle has the possibility to bait penalty killers into opening passing lanes, an intangible that very few possess.
Drafted in 2017, the Kings can only keep Jaret Anderson-Dolan off of their NHL roster for so long. He saw a handful of NHL games last year and had a decent amount of success, but with the organization bringing in Danault and Arvidsson upfront over the offseason, he got edged off of the NHL roster.
Back with Ontario now, Anderson-Dolan has seen a somewhat surprising surge of offence this season, being just shy of a point-per-game player. Interestingly, he leads the AHL in power play goals with ten. After proving to be an effective power play option this year, there is no harm in giving him a chance to translate his success to the NHL level. Additionally, Anderson-Dolan is not simply a power play specialist, as his even-strength play could benefit the team too.
Any one of the players mentioned could be a viable option to help fix the Los Angeles Kings power play. Should they give some of them a chance, the team could see an uptick in its power play percentage. Personnel alone will not fix the issue though. The team also needs to adjust the strategy they have been using on the man advantage, which will be discussed in part two.