by Dan Adkisson
On October 11, the Los Angeles Kings look to carry on from where the team left off, and where they started last season. A surge in the second half of the 2021-22 regular season pulled the Kings to their first playoff berth since 2017-18, and to celebrate, the roster pushed the Edmonton Oilers to a Game 7 decider.
With 99 points to sit with a healthy cushion in the divisional playoff spots, many expect a run to the playoffs again in 2022-23, even without Dustin Brown for the first time since 2003. It will all start at home against the Vegas Golden Knights – which might just be considered a good omen.
Golden Knights to provide a sign of things to come
To open the campaign in October 2021, the Kings welcomed the Golden Knights to Los Angeles, bullied them throughout, and ended the night as 6-2 winners. At the time, Vegas was still considered to be one of the better sides in the preseason rankings, while there were many question marks around how much the Kings would advance. This offseason has seen them take a huge step back while the Kings advance.
While this likely won’t result in an even greater beating in the opening game this season, the Kings are certainly favoured in the odds for hockey bets. In the spread, Vegas with +1.5 is out at -235, while LA gets -1.5 at +195. To win the game, the Golden Knights sit at evens, while the Kings are ahead as the pick at -120. It makes for a predictably cheery start to the new season for LA.
However, besting the Golden Knights by a four-goal margin last season possibly made the team overconfident. Games two to nine all ended in losses, but then a seven-game winning streak followed. After that, five games without a win ensued. Consistently inconsistent was the name of the game for much of the first half of the campaign.
Rebuild expected to take another step forward
By the standards of the wider NHL, it was a very quiet summer for the Los Angeles Kings, and yet, the one significant move that was made should patch a glaring hole in the lines. Costing the near-pro-ready Brock Faber and a 2022 first-round pick, Rob Blake did sound business to add Kevin Fiala to the roster and sign him on to a seven-year deal.
Last season, the Kings struggled to find the back of the net, sitting tenth in the Western Conference in goals scored (239) despite finishing sixth in the rankings for points. Fiala scored 33 goals and 85 points with the Minnesota Wild in 2021-22, averaging a goal every 3.4 games throughout his career. If Adrian Kempe puts in a similar showing, the Kings could have two 30-goal skaters for the first time since 2007-08 (Brown and Kopitar).
Even with Fiala, the Kings’ campaign will strongly rely on its breakout and up-and-coming stars improving once again. Seeing more from top prospects like Mikey Anderson, Arthur Kaliyev, Sean Durzi, and Quinton Byfield would go a long way towards helping to take that next step forward. This is particularly true of the second-overall selection from 2020, who will hopefully be able to enjoy his first full NHL campaign.
This season, if improvements come where expected, hopefully, an opening game win will be followed by a few more, powered by the young skaters littered across the lines.