Undervalued and Underappreciated: The Return of Gavrikov

In the last few seasons, the Kings sought to acquire a mobile, left-shot defenseman. With abundance, rumors swirled around Jacob Chychrun and, at times, Ivan Provorov. The Kings found themselves in a pitched battle with other suitors for various names across the league. The Oilers, who, as last season, dispatched the Kings in the first round of the playoffs two years in a row, last year acquired veteran-steady defenseman Mattias Ekholm from Nashville, who has been as good as advertised.

The Kings acquired Vladislav Gavrikov, a defenseman from Columbus who became more well-known due to Zach Werenski going down due to injury. Initially seen as a third pairing defender, Gavrikov would end up playing top role minutes due to the injury to the Blue Jacket’s franchise defender. Sent to Los Angeles in a marquee trade, the pairing would be highly symbiotic to the Kings, as the system and style would couple nicely, ending in a two-year contract extension with the Kings in their pursuit of breaking free of the first round of the playoffs and a possible Pacific Division title.

Gavrikov has paired with Matt Roy with exuberance and upper-echelon numbers to credit for. They led the entire league last year in xGoals % (70.7%), with only 17 games under their belt. This year, amongst defensemen who have played together more than 300 minutes, they rank second at 61.4%, only behind the aforementioned Ekholm paired with Bouchard.

They have dominated as a pair, easing the difficulty of minutes faced by the Anderson-Doughty pairing and sheltering the Englund-Spence pair for them to be as dominant as they have. This has come as no surprise, as Gavrikov became precisely what was advertised in the playoffs last year, seeing most of his even-strength minutes against the Oilers’ top six. Gavrikov isn’t a defenseman who is going to burn you offensively, but his range and hockey IQ are everything you would want and more. The build for Gavrikov is something you would hope for in Jacob Moverare: length and reach paired with solid hockey IQ, just not the fastest wheels on the ice.

Gavrikov went down with a scary injury against the Islanders, a knee-on-knee incident from Anders Lee that could have been much worse. Gavrikov was labeled “week to week” as the Kings went on their first skid. It would become a theme of the time of the year, as the backup goaltender and savior of last year’s season, Pheonix Copley, would succumb to long-term injury in a practice incident that remains unclear. Jacob Moverare was thrown in as a replacement, but as I will state, there isn’t a replacement for, arguably, the Kings all around, the second-best defenseman.

Gavrikov excels the most at either blue line. His pinches in the attacking zone deftly keep the play alive, or they disturb the breakout for the high or low forwards to pressure the puck carrier/next outlet option. His stick is highly active, forcing plays to the boards and pushing the next pass into a 50/50 area, something I only see with the same level of consistency in Mikey Anderson. With these two pairings, the Kings boast two of the best shutdown pairings in the league, both of which can chip in offense.

Gavrikov has been skating in a regular black practice jersey and could have been available for the game against the Flames. However, as Todd McLellan stated during his practice media availability, giving him and the team the extra three days to be safe was a safe bet. Lessons were learned from Kevin Fiala last year, as there isn’t a precedent to rush impact players back when risking further injury. The Kings aren’t at the halfway mark yet, and Gavrikov’s services should not render a forced and rushed return to the lineup.

Gavrikov is expected to return to the lineup against the Sharks for the first half of their back-to-back before playing Vegas in Sin City. They will finish their Pacific Division stretch on Saturday vs the Oilers for the first time since they were dispatched by them in the playoffs. His return could not have come at a better time, with premiere foes standing in the way and an excellent integration game against the Sharks to get him going. The Kings have been 3-3-1 in the seven games Gavrikov has been in and out of the lineup, while they are 16-4-3 with him inserted.

He may not be the only straw that stirs the drink, as the Kings field a dynamic and deep lineup. But he is an impact player on the backend and the Kings’ second-best option to deploy in all situations, only contested by his partner Matt Roy.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

Connor Doyle

US Navy Veteran and UCLA Class of 2024. Background in International Development Studies. Los Angeles born and raised. Following hockey for over a decade.

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