Over the past few hours, the Kings have made a bunch of roster moves, trimming their main training camp group down to just under 30 players. What the moves mean and don’t mean is where the fun comes in. And while all of this has been going on, we were busy connecting with our various sources to piece it all together.
On the surface, there isn’t too much that is surprising at this point. Other than a pair of key points.
If you’ve been keeping up on the plethora of MayorsManor articles of late, you’re already well primed and understand the challenges (read: opportunities) coach Todd McLellan and GM Rob Blake were going to work through before final rosters were due to the NHL main office on Monday, October 11.
On defense, the Kings had four players come into camp with the most reasonable shot at earning the seventh and final roster spot for blueliners. That group has now been trimmed to three players with Kale Clague being placed on waivers this morning. While we haven’t confirmed this part with our sources, it appears a solid strategy from the outside looking in – hear me out. NHL teams basically want eight defensemen at their disposal. Seven of them are on the NHL roster and they like to have that one other guy waiting in the wings down in the American League. The Kings already know that regardless which player stays on the NHL roster, two more of Olli Maatta, Christian Wolanin, and Austin Strand will end up on waivers. If they put all three of Clague, Wolanin, and Strand on waivers today, what happens in the worst case scenario? Even if the odds are very low that all three get taken by other teams, what if it actually happened? That would leave Sean Durzi as the next man up in Ontario should an injury or illness crop up with one of the Kings seven defensemen. Instead, by exposing Clague first, they can wait and see how that plays out. Heck, they might even drip the other two out one by one. There’s no real need to do them all at the same time.
Now, up front, we have some intel to pass along.
From what we’ve been able to gather, Vladimir Tkachev is all but a lock for the Kings opening night roster. Ditto for Brendan Lemieux. In watching the team’s first three preseason games, neither of those players should be a surprise. They were expected to be two of the stronger candidates among the 13 players vying for one of the spots, and they’ve shown well. Maybe even better than many thought they would.
With that aside, now the Kings are down to the final two spots at forward. Of the other 11 players battling for those spots, six of them were sent to Ontario today.
PLAYERS SENT TO AHL ONTARIO
Forwards: Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Aidan Dudas, Samuel Fagemo, Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, Tyler Madden, Johan Sodergran, and Alex Turcotte
Defensemen: Sean Durzi, Helge Grans, Markus Phillips, and Jordan Spence
Goalies: Jacob Ingham, Lukas Parik, and Matt Villalta
28 PLAYERS REMAINING IN KINGS CAMP
Arvidsson – Kopitar – Brown
Tkachev – Danault – Iafallo
Kempe – Vilardi – Andersson
Anderson – Doughty
Bjornfot – Roy
Edler – Walker
Plus six players on waivers: Frk, Clague, Burke, Moverare, Sparks, and Tynan.
We covered the situation on defense up above. Let’s now focus on the forwards.
The top three lines look all but set. Management is especially impressed with the chemistry of that Vilardi line, and it was noted to us that he’s looked real good throughout camp.
With Moore and Athanasiou also believed to have secure spots on the roster, that essentially leaves just two roster openings at forward and five players still in contention — Wagner, Lizotte, Grundstrom, Byfield, and Kupari.
At the very minimum, the Kings will need to place one more forward on waivers (Wagner, Grundstrom, or Lizotte). However, from what we’ve been able to gather today, it’s not quite that simple. We’re hearing the Kings very much believe Byfield is NHL ready. The concern right now is if they keep him on the roster, will he be able to get the minutes he needs? Most likely not, and that’s why we tabbed him to open the season in the AHL.
Kupari was the interesting name in our discussions today. Even with the Kings assigning him to Ontario, he isn’t out of the running from what we’re being told. They really like the idea of him playing on the wing and trying to figure out if there’s a place for him to stick right now. If he was to make the NHL opening night roster, that would then put another of the aforementioned trio on waivers. If somehow Byfield and Kupari were both able to secure an NHL spot this week, that would result in all three of those players hitting the waiver wire.
Unless, of course, if Athanasiou were to start the year on IR. Oh, the possibilities.
Lead photo via ALo Images
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