Earlier this summer, we spent quite a bit of time looking at potential opening night rosters for both the Kings and their AHL affiliate in Ontario.
No doubt, there are many moving pieces – including where Quinton Byfield will start the season. And nearly every roster decision at the NHL level is immediately followed by a subsequent set of dominos falling.
At least one thing is certain, though.
In the few weeks leading up to Monday, October 11, Kings GM Rob Blake has some important decisions to make.
For starters, it’s just math.
While officially, the team has 66 players listed on their Training Camp roster, that’s not the key number.
Included in that group are players who realistically fall into three other categories; more than they can be considered legitimate candidates for a spot on LA’s NHL roster this season:
Members of the Ontario Reign — Brett Sutter, Adam Johnson, etc.
Camp Invitees — Cam Suryka, Tye McSorley, etc.
Young NHL prospects eventually heading back to junior hockey — Francisco Pinelli, Martin Chromiak, etc.
Removing these players from the following discussion allows us to pare the larger list down to a more manageable group. By focussing in on players who will be reasonably considered for the Kings final roster, things start to come into focus.
ACTUAL CANDIDATES FOR KINGS ROSTER SPOTS
Forwards: Anderson-Dolan, Andersson, Athanasiou, Arvidsson, Brown, Byfield, Danault, Fagemo, Frk, Grundstrom, Iafallo, Kaliyev, Kempe, Kopitar, Kupari, Lemieux, Lizotte, Madden, Moore, Tkachev, Turcotte, Vilardi, Wagner
Defensemen: Anderson, Bjornfot, Clague, Doughty, Durzi, Edler, Maatta, Roy, Strand, Walker, Wolanin
Goalies: Quick, Petersen
That still leaves Blake and coach Todd McLellan with 36 total players (23 forwards, 11 defensemen, and two goalies). Even by limiting our goaltending list to just two netminders, rather than convolute things by adding a few more names, we’re more than a dozen players above the NHL limit of a 23-man roster. There’s further trimming that needs to take place.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
The final roster composition is most likely going to end up as 14 forwards, 7 defensemen, and two goalies.
With that in mind, here we go…
Goalies are taken care of. Check.
For the defensemen, we’ll send Durzi, Strand, and Wolanin to the AHL. There’s a little risk involved too, as the latter two blueliners will have to clear waivers first. We’ll circle back to Wolanin in just a moment.
Even in doing so, that leaves eight defensemen fighting for seven spots. If you consider that six of those seven are really already spoken for (Anderson, Bjornfot, Doughty, Edler, Roy, Walker), that at least narrows the decision to Maatta vs. Clague for the seventh spot.
Regardless, the master list is now down to 33 players; yet there’s still a lot of work to do.
For the 14 roster spots up front, we’re assuming the following have already punched their ticket: Andersson, Athanasiou, Arvidsson, Brown, Danault, Iafallo, Kempe, Kopitar, Moore, and Vilardi.
That leaves 13 players fighting for the final four roster spots.
One could argue that Andersson isn’t guaranteed his NHL spot, but we don’t see it as highly likely that he gets traded or put on waivers. We believe management sees him as an NHL player to start the season.
With that in mind, who among this group will earn the remaining four spots — Anderson-Dolan, Byfield, Fagemo, Frk, Grundstrom, Kaliyev, Kupari, Lemieux, Lizotte, Madden, Tkachev, Turcotte, and Wagner?
That’s right, only FOUR of those players will most likely make the Kings opening night roster.
We’re going to break them down into two groups for further evaluation:
Group A – Anderson-Dolan, Byfield, Fagemo, Kaliyev, Kupari, Madden, Tkachev, Turcotte
Group B – Frk, Grundstrom, Lemieux, Lizotte, or Wagner
From simply a rules perspective, the eight players in Group A can all be sent to the AHL without needing to first pass through waivers. If Blake went that route for simplicity, that would still leave five players in Group B. Thus, with only four spots available, one of them would be headed to waivers (or a late camp trade).
Where things get tricky are with the players in Group A.
For example, if anybody in Group A makes the roster (for example, let’s use Tkachev), that means only three players from Group B can now make the roster. Or, said differently, two players from Group B are now headed to waivers.
In other words, theoretically speaking, it may be harder for a player from Group A to make the roster because they won’t only be ‘taking’ somebody else’s spot, they’ll also push that guy to waivers.
Now, if Blake can find a team that has some injuries during camp — or even a team that isn’t completely satisfied with their bottom six — perhaps he could swing a deal for a late pick, or even future considerations, to move out one of the players in Group B to make room for a player from Group A. Again, for example purposes, maybe Lemieux is dealt to another team for a fifth round pick, which allows Kupari to make the Kings roster.
BACK TO THE BLUELINE
We see the Kings defensive battle in training camp coming down to Maatta vs. Clague. If one of them isn’t traded, then one guy makes the roster as the extra defenseman and the other is headed to waivers — where Blake would hope he isn’t claimed and can stash him in Ontario for the time being (although the roster is pretty full down there too, in case you haven’t noticed).
This is where trading Maatta makes some sense. Given his NHL experience, he is likely more attractive to another team than Clague at the moment. If LA traded Maatta, they’d certainly lose some veteran depth because that then leaves Clague and Wolanin as the next man up should anything happen to one of the starting six defensemen.
Ah, yes, we’re back to Wolanin.
He’s the quiet sleeper in all of this. He’s only about 18 months younger than Maatta, but he doesn’t come with the wear and tear of 500+ NHL games. Wolanin has opened a lot of eyes since joining the Kings via a trade with Ottawa in March. He was more than serviceable in a few games played for Ontario and Los Angeles. His real coming out party came with Team USA and the World Championships over the summer. A natural lefty, he could be a legitimate option if the Kings were able to move Clague or Maatta. Otherwise, putting Wolanin on the NHL roster would require both Clague and Maatta to hit the waiver wire. In the event both were picked up, that could leave the Kings a little too thin, from a depth perspective.
Trades and/or waivers. Something has to give to get from 36 players down to 23.
Blake has his hands full in the coming weeks, as Game 1 on October 14 will be here rather quickly.
Note to webmasters/reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please remember to include a link to www.MayorsManor.com