With training camp now underway in El Segundo, a few hints at what lineup LA Kings coach Todd McLellan may use for opening night are starting to emerge.
It’s sort of like putting a 23-piece jigsaw puzzle together. You first start with the pieces you’re sure of and then try to fit the others into place.
For example, Drew Doughty believes he’ll be playing with Mikey Anderson.
In fact. Overall, the top three defensive pairs look to be pretty much as expected.
The real competition on the blueline is between Kale Clague, Olli Maatta, and Christian Wolanin. There is likely only room for one of them on the Kings roster, as the seventh defenseman. Thus, barring a trade, that means the other two will be headed for waivers — with the hopes they sneak through and can be assigned to AHL Ontario.
Up front, Viktor Arvidsson appears to be scheduled to play with captain Anze Kopitar on the top line.
The only question is who will join them – will it be Dustin Brown or Alex Iafallo?
For now, McLellan said he wants to keep Brown on that line. And why not, he led the team in goals last season.
As we reported earlier in the summer, the plan was to try Russian forward Vladimir Tkachev on a line with Phil Danault. And there he was on Wednesday, with Alex Iafallo as the other winger. Both McLellan and Kopitar indicated they could flip Brown/Iafallo as wingers on those top two lines.
With Quinton Byfield sidelined on Wednesday (although, he’s expected back today), McLellan’s pairings didn’t offer much insight into where he plans to play the young center while evaluating him over the next couple of weeks.
However, in previous Opening Night Lineup projections, we’ve had Byfield starting the season in the AHL, so it all may be a moot point.
Anderson-Dolan could easily end up being the odd man out in the short-term, more because he’s waiver exempt than anything else. Once Byfield and Andreas Athansiou work their way into the main groups, McLellan’s bottom-six lines will start to become a bit more clear.
One final note of interest, McLellan had all four wings on the top two lines playing on their off-wing. Arvidsson, normally a right wing, has played both sides in the past, as has Brown. However, Iafallo has primarily been used as a left wing with the Kings, so this could be an interesting strategy to keep an eye on throughout camp.
Iafallo was matter-of-fact when asked about it – “I’m just trying to play my game. It doesn’t really change anything at all, as we’re just trying to be aggressive this year. The forecheck changed a little bit. I’m just going to try to keep scoring and be more offensive.”
Arvidsson added a few thoughts on playing the left side – “It’s the same. I’m aggressive. I shoot the puck when I get the chance. I do everything to get space to my teammates. I wouldn’t say it changes anything.”
When talking about Arvidsson, McLellan used words like “tenacity” and “aggressive” and the noted that in the first minute of the scrimmage he had three shot attempts. “All the characteristics that we thought we were getting, we saw today. And he brought a lot of energy to the practice and enthusiasm to the rink. That’s a good thing, as well.”
LA KINGS PROJECTION v63
Arvidsson – Kopitar – Brown
Tkachev – Danault – Iafallo
Kempe – JAD – Wagner
Moore – Vilardi – Frk
Lemieux – Lizotte – Andersson
Anderson – Doughty
Bjornfot – Roy
Edler – Walker
Among all the forwards in camp, there are roughly 13 of them who are realistically competing for four open spots. We explained it all here:
How tight is the roster competition at LA Kings camp? Only four of these players will likely make the Opening Night lineup.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) September 24, 2021
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