Immediately following GM Rob Blake’s acquisition of forward Viktor Arvidsson on July 1, the questions began — ‘Where does he fit into the lineup?’
We dug into that topic with an article here, providing several hypothetical scenarios and detailed context surrounding each idea.
This led to another round of questions from some Kings fans – ‘Why isn’t (Grundstrom, Lemieux, etc.) on the fourth line?’
To begin breaking it all down, let’s use an option presented in the aforementioned article:
LA Kings projected lineup for 2021-22 Opening Night
Iafallo – Kopitar – Arvidsson
Kempe – Vilardi – (OPEN RW2)
Andersson – Byfield – Brown
Moore – JAD – Wagner
We can start to peel this onion with a few key assumptions:
— The Kings will acquire one more forward this summer and that player will not cost them one of the current roster players listed above. If the deal does include — hypothetically speaking, Adrian Kempe — then you can add one more open position to the point we’re going to make in a few paragraphs to come.
— Using the standard NHL roster of 14 forwards, let’s first establish how many of those 14 spots are likely spoken for. We’re going with 11, which is everybody listed above except Wagner. Those 11 would be: Anderson-Dolan, Andersson, Arvidsson, Brown, Byfield, Iafallo, Kempe, Kopitar, Moore, Vilardi, and TBD (aka the incoming ‘new’ player).
— For those wondering why Andersson is considered to be on the NHL roster for next season, consider two key pieces of information: (a) the Kings will be protecting him in the Expansion Draft, as we reported here and (b) he is out of waivers, so he either needs to make the NHL roster out of training camp or be exposed to every other team before he can be assigned to AHL Ontario in October.
This leaves the Kings with only three potential openings among their collection of 14 forwards on the 2021-22 roster. Who are the candidates to claim those final spots? Let’s take a look.
CANDIDATES TO ROUND OUT THE LA KINGS 2021-22 ROSTER
Andreas Athanasiou – His inclusion on this list assumes the Kings even re-sign him, which looks less and less likely with each passing day. See here for our latest info on his contract negotiations. He scored 10 goals over the 56-game season just completed; yet went scoreless over the final 12 games. Earlier in the year, there was a period where he only scored two goals in a 15-game stretch. That’s not the type of consistency needed for a team desperate for offense.
Martin Frk – He’s perhaps the most intriguing name on this list, if not only because you have to wonder what might have been had he played the whole season. LA began their 2021 training camp with Frk penciled in to play alongside Vilardi. If he hadn’t gotten hurt and been out for months, he might have been fighting to be protected in the Expansion Draft. We’ll never know. A legit scoring threat when he’s on the ice, as evidenced by his body of work in AHL Ontario. We expect a healthy Frk to be plenty hungry when he shows up to camp in a few months.
Carl Grundstrom – He’s as close to a lock for a roster spot on this list. Up until the trade for Arvidsson, Grundstrom was on the Kings protection list. As we’ve stated many times, there aren’t too many players in the Kings organization that play similar to his style, a Dustin Brown-lite type of game. Now that he has his sea legs under him at the NHL level and has seemingly earned the trust of Todd McLellan, Grundstrom could be poised for a bit of a breakout year.
Brendan Lemieux – Not really sure what to do here. He was brought over from the Rangers to add some toughness to the lineup, especially when MacDermid was out of the lineup. That didn’t really materialize as planned. If you’re an optimist, you’ll likely note that he only played 18 games with the Kings and if he rebounds next year, he won’t be the first player to ever have a better second season with his new club.
Blake Lizotte – Like Grundstrom, it’s not a stretch to see Lizotte as a near-lock for one of those final three roster spots at forward. He’s a trustworthy bottom-6 guy who outworks nearly everybody. In time, there’s a good chance he’ll be squeezed out simply because there will be too many prospects pushing for jobs. He was a bridge until Anderson-Dolan was ready, and with JAD now on the scene, his grip on an NHL roster spot in LA isn’t as tight as it once was.
Kurtis MacDermid – If you missed the news we reported a few weeks ago, you may be wondering what MacDermid is doing listed among a handful of forwards. We’re hearing there’s a push to convert him to a forward. If that successfully happens, he becomes another guy in an already crowded field pushing for one of these spots. Know this, though, his teammates love him and he’s great for the culture of the club. It also eases the pressure on all involved when he’s an extra forward instead of the seventh defenseman, especially on the road. [UPDATE: July 21 – MacDermid was selected by Seattle in the Expansion Draft.]
Vladimir Tkachyov – A total wild card when trying to handicap this race; we previously did a whole article on the latest player to sign with LA out of Russia. He’s a player who puts fans on the edge of their seats. Can he do it in the NHL?
Austin Wagner – With now 171 NHL games played over three seasons, there isn’t much more that needs to be said. There’s a large enough body of work there to know who he is. In fact, he has the most games of anybody listed here other than Athanasiou and Lemieux. Obviously, he has speed to burn. That isn’t enough. We’d say the odds are greater than 50% he is on waivers if still with LA during training camp. He’s likely sitting in the same seat Mike Amadio was at the start of 2021, on the verge of slipping down the depth chart.
The Kids – It would be very easy (and it’s extremely tempting) to hype up any number of the Kings prospects at forward for one of the three open spots, including guys named: Fagemo, Kaliyev, Kupari, Madden, Turcotte, and Thomas. Here’s the sobering reality, though… none of them are probably quite ready just yet. And even if you say one of them is (and Kaliyev is damn close), just look at the math being discussed. There are only three spots available and eight names are listed above The Kids. Said prospect would really have to jump the line to make the Kings NHL roster out of camp. All of these prospect are also waiver exempt, so they can start the season in Ontario without risk of losing them to another team. For that reason alone, it’s far more likely they start out with the Reign next season; allowing Blake some more time to continue thinning the herd ahead of them. It also allows those prospects to become a little more seasoned.
For a look at what LA’s 2021-22 defense might look like, see here or some of the articles linked below.
Note to webmasters/reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please remember to include a link to www.MayorsManor.com
Nice read. It would be a stretch to have more than a few young guns at the NHL level (counting Byfield). Kaliyev and Kupari deserve a chance as they played decent in their cup of coffee call up last season. Fagemo, Madden, Turcotte, and Thomas will all probably get a few games with the Kings to see if they shine. Some players are simply better with more talent. I see Turcotte in that vein. The Kings are very close to competing for a solid playoff spot. 21/22 looks decent. 22/23 looks like our return as a top team. Go Kings Go
George Pobedinsky says
I’m hoping the Kraken doesn’t take Grundstrom. I’m hoping they go for Luff or McDermid since they’re under team control. My head is swimming with all these scenarios. Let’s get it over with and get vegetarian season underway.
Michael Edwards says
I know most do not agree with me. I see Iafallo as the biggest roster problem. Look back at 2011-2015. He would not have had a sniff at LW1. He would have be LW3 at best on that team. He is what he is.
John Hoven says
As we’ve often noted, he’ll slide into a LW2 or LW3 position as other/better players enter the lineup and take his spot. Until then, he has been productive and Kopitar likes playing with him. We fully expect this coming season for Kopitar to have at least one new winger, which means at a minimum one of Iafallo/Brown will be moving down the lineup.
Ryan S Peralta says
Am I the only person who thinks iaffalo shouldn’t be on the top line? I see him as a third line winger. How about give kempe that spot.
William Kingston says
I see Iafallo as a very good second line player who has filled in our top line because of the rebuild. He is a great player who is putting up more and more points every year. Not flashy but compliments whoever he plays with and makes them better. Glad he’s a King!
Also, great read. And I think you are right about the kids. As fun as it would be to have them in the show next year, the fact that they are waiver exempt almost ensures their start is in Ont.
Additionally, I think Wagner suffers the same fate as Amadio did last year as you (John H) alluded to. He can’t keep getting chances and not showing improvement. Four breakaways a game mean nothing if there is zero percent any of them end with the biscuit in the basket. I’d rather see Lemieux, Tkachyov, or even MacD there instead. Anyways, great read again. Appreciate all the hard work.
brian smith says
this is more of a lines thought than a roster one, some maybe it can be addressed when the season gets closer, but do you think there’s been any thought of starting Byfield on the wing?
I’m sure his NHL career will be at center but he’s just so young and there’s some much responsibility playing in the middle. Additionally, the little I’ve seen of Byfield makes me think it takes him a while to get comfortable and confident. Playing him on the wing would allow him to just focus on being an NHL player, while at the same time allowing him to apprentice alongside one of the best in the game in Kopitar.
and there’d be other benefits as well. firstly, we all want a better wing for Kopi. Byfield might be the most talented option to play on the top line. Secondly, it would establish a template for Kings to start young centers off on the wing until they have the chance, and show the ability, to play at center.