Training Camp is just around the corner, and as we get closer to Camp, it’s time to get back into hockey rhythm again. The Kings had some graduates from their prospect pool in the last few camps, notably Arthur Kaliyev, Gabriel Vilardi, and Quinton Byfield. And while plenty of prospects are still left in the system after two seasons of Rob Blake levying assets for ready-now talent, the Kings have specific prospects at risk of the potential over-ripening. The Kings have fallen from The Athletic’s graces in terms of their prospect pool, rightfully so. Some prospects still give promise, and a plethora of other obscurities need to be ironed out by the end of training camp.
“We have a big step to take next year, the organization has more steps to take as it goes on, I used the word last night, a youthful playoff team. I don’t mean that by age, I just mean that evolution in if we’re talking about that line. We’ve been in the playoffs now back-to-back.Todd McLellan, exit interview May 2023
1. Next Prospect Up
The departures of Alex Iafallo, Gabriel Vilardi, and Rasmus Kupari for a certain Pierre Luc Dubois certainly open up room in the forward core. Jared Anderson-Dolan, a second-round pick in the 2017 draft, has become a versatile Swiss army knife who has had difficulty being in and out of the starting lineup for over three seasons while spending significant time in the AHL (54 GP, 2021-22 particularly).
The openings offer less resistance for JAD to get more consistent time in the lineup, but other players will have an excellent chance to compete as an extra forward, cap space permitting.
The number five overall pick in the 2019 Draft has had an abysmal body of health since he was drafted. He is the only Kings first-round forward draft pick who has yet to graduate to the NHL. It has been a long time since his game-winning goal against Canada in the World Junior Championships on a line with Arthur Kaliyev and Trevor Zegras. He hasn’t cracked more than 32 games in the AHL in one season. In the 12 games of NHL exposure, he has yet to record a point and is a -2, with seven penalty minutes.
With a clean bill of health, there’s no reason why Turcotte can’t push to be an extra forward on the NHL roster. With the understanding that he will be able to get more playing time in the AHL, I point out that time and time again, he gets rocked around. While the NHL is not ‘softer’ or easier than the AHL, there’s certainly less ability to get rocked due to the fast-changing rate of speed and skill over heaviness. I’m not ready to call him this generation’s Thomas Hickey, but the clock is reaching a penultimate moment in Turcotte’s career.
Another prospect who has dealt with significant injuries that cost Thomas precious development time. When he’s healthy, he is as complete as a player the Kings have in their prospect system. After three seasons in the AHL, one being extremely abbreviated due to a shoulder injury, Thomas is in a prime position to take the next step with the Kings or, at the very least, receive a call-up during the season. The second-round draft pick in the 2018 draft, Akil Thomas, finished with eight points in 13 games for the Reign last year. Thomas is in a worse situation than Turcotte, being that Thomas is a year older. Twenty-three years old is not the best or the worst age to hopefully get a crack at consistent NHL ice time.
Fagemo has become a consistent goal scorer at the AHL level. He’s proven that in back-to-back 20-plus goal seasons (27, 23). His game lacks other dimensions, but he can put the puck into the back of the net, reminiscent of Tyler Toffoli’s first few stints with the Kings. He has scored at the NHL level, with two goals in 12 games, and entering his fourth year as a pro, I expect him to compete for a roster spot during training camp. Remember last year’s Camp during the Viktor Arvidsson injury? Fagemo saw plenty of time on the wing to fill the void, cycling in and out with Gabriel Vilardi. The organization shows what they have in the pure shooter, which could be a contingency plan if Kaliyev sours.
2. 34 and 55
“I think Quinton is on track to be the player that the Kings envisioned him to be, I do think he’s behind the pace……something similar happens where, every year, a guy explodes, right? I mean, you see it every year, a guy you’re not expecting to explodes, so hopefully it’s Byfield. The kid works like a dog, he trains with Gary Roberts, you don’t have to really worry about him not doing the work, so I think there’s a high level of confidence. The organization has a high, high level of confidence.”Mark Yannetti, on Quinton Byfield
Arthur Kaliyev and Quinton Byfield will enter Camp with incredible opportunities to take a giant leap forward. Quinton Byfield, the second overall pick and the heir apparent to Anze Kopitar, will have the chance to get an entire season under his belt. Once Byfield cemented his place on the top line, it became a driving force for the Kings down the stretch last season. It was one of the better top lines in all of hockey last year. Byfield enters training camp healthy, and he has the opportunity to show his growth from last year (Byfield struggled against Edmonton) and build on what became a fantastic line for the Kings. Given the losses, Byfield could also see Penalty Kill time, depending on his Camp. Kupari and Iafallo were both previously PK regulars.
Kaliyev is an underrated aspect of the Kings next season, for he acts as a darkhorse catalyst for the season’s success. Success in a team sport rarely falls on one individual, but Kaliyev will garner more minutes in an elevated role in Camp. KaIiyev is one of the players on the roster outside of Adrian Kempe with game-breaking shooting ability, and if he does well with more minutes, he can be the storyline for the Kings success.
“I think Arthur Kaliyev can be an impactful NHL player and not only can be, but we need him to be, It’s our job as a coaching staff to get him there, the development team, everybody else to get him there. We’ll do everything in our power to get him there, we need him there. The other side of the coin is his participation and I think he is very open to that.”Todd McLellan, on Arthur Kaliyev
I expect him to be a modified winger on the NICE line while Arvidsson moves up with Fiala and Dubois. Danault is an excellent centerman to play with, being sound defensively and a pass-first forward. Kaliyev will have ample opportunity to build on his even-strength game, as Kaliyev only scored five of his twelve goals at even-strength last year. In 56 games total, he only averaged 11:41 in ice time. His Camp will be the judge if that gets a significant bump.
3. Goalie Triumvirate
The Kings have their mainstay from last season, Pheonix Copley, whose play garnished attention for saving the King’s season last year. The acquisition of Joonas Korpisalo did not return. There will be no Jonathan Quick at training camp for the first time in well over a decade. Rob Blake and co sought to find patchwork for their goaltending situation and went out and signed Cam Talbot and David Rittich.
All three players have been playing pro hockey for quite some time, with Talbot (36), Rittich (31), and Copley (31) past 30 years of age.
While Talbot is getting up there in age, he has the most experienced field of NHL work, with 432 games compared to Rittich (172) and Copley (68). Talbot was also the starter for Todd McClellan during his Edmonton Oiler days, so there is familiarity. All three goalies have a save percentage over .900, but Talbot stands alone at a career .914. Copley had success playing behind a Kings team that needed stability, and he provided nothing particularly flashy but played balanced and calmly towards a .903 Sv % with a 24-6-3 record.
There should be a battle for these three to see who the ultimate tandem will be to start the year. However, given the background, it should be Talbot-Copley.
The Kings will also have a pair of young defenders looking to grab a third-pair role… I’ll be diving into the Spence-Clarke debate next.