During last year’s NHL season, nothing illustrated the Los Angeles Kings struggles more than scoring depth.
At times, all the opposition needed to do to shut down the Kings was to keep the first line off the scoring sheet. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown scored 27% of the Kings’ goals. That meant that there was a huge drop off in offense if those two couldn’t find the net.
The Kings need to upgrade their wings in the worst way. That is in part due to their already strong centers. They have a really good center in Kopitar on the first line and Jeff Carter on the second line. Adrian Kempe had a breakout season on the third line and will look to get even better next year.
Young Wingers Under Perform
Going into last season much was expected from their two key free agent signings Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. Unfortunately, without the services of Carter, who was lost to injury for 55 games, both Pearson and Toffoli played poorly throughout the season.
At one point last year, Toffoli went 15 games without a goal and Pearson went from 24 goals to 15. That lack of production isn’t going to cut it next season for the Kings.
With favorable contracts, either could be part of a package deal for more consistent scoring. The Kings, though, would be dealing something they covet: youth.
Free Agent Wingers
If a trade deal isn’t out there for the Kings, then they could find there scoring through free agency. Unfortunately the Kings best chance for a scoring winger with youth is already off the table. Evander Kane, the 27-year-old, re-signed with the San Jose Sharks on a seven-year deal when the Sharks’ season ended.
Of the top 30 free agents available this summer, according to the Hockey News, the only other winger under 30 years old who’s available is James Van Riemsdyk. However, with the Kings salary cap issues, they likely cannot afford him.
The most likely out come for Kings will likely be either dealing from depth or hoping they can get scoring from some highly regarded prospects.
When Muzzin and Drew Doughty missed Game Two of the Kings’ first round match up against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Kings’ defensive corp managed to push the Knights to double overtime with a great clamp down on defense.
They can afford to tinker with that back line depth to create more offense. If the front office refuses to lose defense, then it might be up to a top prospect to set up.
Kings Winger Prospects
The Kings 2017 first round draft pick, Gabe Vilardi, posses skills similar to Kopitar. Vilardi is a big center with an excellent scoring touch. He signed a three-year entry level contract with the Kings before the end of his latest junior hockey season with the Kingston Frontenacs.
The 18-year-old Vilardi will be in training camp with the team come September. And if he impresses the coaching staff, you may see him with the parent club sooner rather than later. The Kings are confident that Vilardi’s game will translate to the next level of hockey.
What then will the Kings do this offseason? There isn’t one right answer to the Kings scoring woes on the wings. The bottom line is that the Kings will have to get creative if they’re going to find a scoring winger.