The Kings have plenty to be excited about heading into this 2019 season... their veteran core should start the season happy and healthy, they've added another veteran scorer to the mix and they should be able to introduce a little more youth into their lineup as well.
The knock, if there is going to be one, is that they still seem like a very fragile team. Their fragility seems to be a bit more mental than it is physical, going back to the 2017 season, when Jonathan Quick went down with his long-term injury, the team just shut down and were not the same without their number one goalie. What team really is the same when their number one keeper goes down, but it really seemed like the Kings lacked a lot then. They bounced back well with a healthy goalie, but it just makes me wonder.
For us who take part in the hockey pool draft, there will be plenty of options from Los Angeles and I I will have them on my list, but I am going to temper my expectations. Other teams saw how good the Kings were and they'll zone in on some of those key players, so there could be a little drop in a few players, while others should still be decent.
Table last updated on August 10th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
How could this not be Ilya Kovalchuk? I mean, seriously. The return of the Russian enigma has got a lot of eyes focused on the Kings for the early part of this 2019 season, if not the whole thing. The now 35-year old forward still has some offensive instincts, which were displayed in PyeongChang at the Olympics, but the NHL game has changed since he has left and now we all have to wonder if it left him behind.
Certainly, Kovalchuk will benefit from a little bit more open ice and a far less physical game than what it was and if speed is going to be an issue, it certainly won't be in Los Angeles, as they are not widely considered to be all that fast of a team. He won't have troubles keeping up with some of his linemates.
First Round Picks
If the Kings are going to be good again in the 2019 season, it will be on the shoulders of their two potential 1st round picks in Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick. These two have been carrying the load for this team for so long, it would be strange not to see them near the top again. Kopitar was a top 10 guy in scoring last year, but it will be interesting to see how many people really consider him to be a top 25 guy at the draft this year or everyone sees him fall to more pressing needs on a team's roster.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
The resurgence of Dustin Brown in 2018 has kept him on my list for another year and he's joined by Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson, as other notable forwards for the draft. The blend of young and old on this Kings team could be what keeps the spark alive, the kids learning from the vets and the old dogs get a little extra pep in their step from the puppies on the team.
Other Pool Worthy Defensemen
Maybe where this team really makes it's money is back on the blueline, as I see an impressive bunch of defensemen on this team, ready to make their move this season. Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez and Dion Phaneuf make a very formidable top four group on the team, but the Kings also made a splash at the NCAA signing level at the end of last year, adding standout defender Daniel Brickley. There's not guarantee that Brickley makes the squad, but if he does, his scoring merit will be one of the big reasons why.
In behind Quick this season will be Peter Budaj, who has returned to the Kings after a year and a bit in Tampa Bay. Budaj had a standout year in 2017, when Quick was down with an injury for the better part of the season, so he returns to at least provide some ample minutes in the backup role, possibly hoping for a little bit more.
Team to Pick From Late?
If you're going by this list, then yes, I think there is still some more potential in the team's roster that you could consider late on in the draft. Sophomore forward Adrian Kempe could garner some selections late on, as well as defenseman Derek Forbort, assuming he can find some minutes on the blueline as well. The Kings have the potential to score, so their players should be ripe for the picking late on.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
As far as spending goes, the Kings have done it in spades. They haven't left themselves much to work with through the season and it could mean that they run a 22-man roster to start the season, just to make sure that they have some cap space left. My current 23-man projection sees them with a little over $800,000 in cap space remaining, which really isn't a lot. Thankfully, free agent season for them came and went quickly and without much cause for concern.
Forward Dustin Brown had off-season shoulder surgery back in April, but the recovery time on that wasn't nearly as bad as some of them we've seen in these posts. He should be ready to go for training camp and looking to build on a career year last season.