The 2016-17 Season was disastrous for the LA Kings. The team came off a stunning first-round exit via the San Jose Sharks from Dean Lombardi’s final push for a third cup. The primary acquisition, Milan Lucic, walked away in free agency to the Edmonton Oilers. Vincent Lecavalier retired off into the sunset. The Kings finished fifth in their division with a record of 25-35-22. Without knowing, a top-line replacement was coming out at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Alex Iafallo, an undrafted player out of Minnesota Duluth, finished his four-year college career with 48 goals and 73 assists for 121 points in 152 games. I would wholeheartedly doubt that this player would be the one starting on the top line to start the 2017-18 season, “A longshot to make the roster when training camp began, he not only made the team but appears on track to begin the season on a line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. A senior at the University of Minnesota-Duluth last season, Iafallo brings the kind of energy and aggressiveness this aging Kings team is in desperate need of” (Clay Fowler of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune). Iafallo blew the socks off of every organization member, from linemates to Rob Blake. He showed up daily in camp ready to play and impressed enough to make the team and even the top line.
He quickly became one of the Kings fans’ favorite players and also the Kings players’ favorite linemates. He was partnered with Kopitar at the beginning of his career and pivoted to the top 9 for his tenure. While he didn’t blow away the stat sheets with his 9-16-25, he was highly complementary to his linemates. To this day, Kopitar has not produced a better statistical season than the season he had Alex Iafallo as a linemate, with 35 goals and 57 assists for 92 points, earning him a top-3 Hart trophy vote. It wasn’t with cup-winning partner Justin Williams, Marian Gaborik, rugged forward Milan Lucic in his prime, or now top-line stalwart Adrian Kempe: it was Iafallo.
If you’re the Winnipeg Jets, you’re receiving an anomaly in this league. While the centerpiece for the massive trade and sign deal for Pierre Luc Dubois was Gabriel Vilardi, Iafallo is an undrafted, top 9 pivots who can play against all competition, can PK, and owns a decent shot on the PP when needed. He was undrafted and thrown into a top-line position on a team that made the playoffs after a brutally disappointing season. He is as consistent as it comes and emerged as one of the members of the post-cup core leadership group. He does it all and is one of the best complementary players in the league. His stats speak for themselves, which include scoring in the playoffs. He is a gem in this league and a feel-good story for hockey players out there trying to achieve their dreams regardless of whether they are drafted.
Best of luck in Winnipeg AI.