Jack Johnson is one of several promising blueliners in the Kings system. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Kings have dropped further and further down the NHL standings since they last made the playoffs in 2002. In the two seasons before the lockout, the Kings placed 18th and 20th overall. In the three seasons since, Los Angeles has finished 20th, 28th and 29th.
In other words, the Kings aren’t exactly headed in the right direction.
Or are they?
Take a close look at L.A.’s roster and there’s hope on the horizon.
The Kings already boast a handful of burgeoning stars up front in forwards Anze Kopitar (20 years and 11 months), Patrick O’Sullivan (23), Dustin Brown (23) and Alexander Frolov (26). That’s a great foundation upon which to build two scoring lines. And with prospects Teddy Purcell, Brian Boyle and Trevor Lewis on the fast track to the NHL, there’s more scoring help on the way.
While the Kings’ crop of could-be forwards is impressive, the crowning glory should be the blueline. Jack Johnson, selected third overall in the 2005 entry draft, is coming off a promising rookie season. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles’ first pick in the June draft (second overall), will get a good long look in training camp and likely will start the season in the NHL. Between Johnson and Doughty, the Kings have two potential No. 1 defensemen (imagine the Kings with two Rob Blakes). Both are big, fast, physical and can work the power play.
And it doesn’t stop there. Los Angeles also has blueliner Thomas Hickey on the way (drafted fourth overall in 2007), as well as Alec Martinez (95th in 2007) and Colten Teubert (13th in 2008). They might not all pan out, but there’s too much talent there to dismiss. If these prospects develop as expected, the Kings’ defense corps will be big, mobile and super-skilled within a few years.
In goal, Los Angeles is sitting on Jonathan Bernier, who was rated No. 10 in THN’s Future Watch 2008. Bernier, drafted 11th overall in 2006, might face some competition from fellow cage kids Jeff Zatkoff (74th in 2006) and Jon Quick (72nd in 2005), but it’s Bernier who is the prized prospect with the pedigree. He’ll get the best chance to play, and the soon-to-be 20-year-old netminder might even end up in California next season.
It’s been a tough slog for the Kings. They’ve won just one playoff round since they made it to the Stanley Cup final in 1993; in fact, they’ve only made the playoffs four times since ’93. They’ve finished in the bottom three of the NHL the past two seasons, and could end up near the basement again next year. Los Angeles is much more likely to end up last in the Western Conference than in the playoffs.
But at least there’s hope for the future, and a lot of it.
Sam McCaig is The Hockey News' senior copy editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears weekly.
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