Hey guys, Sven here with 31 in 31, and a look at the LA Kings! Over the next month, I will be taking a look at each team’s players to watch out for going into the 2018-19 fantasy hockey season: The 31 in 31 daily segment. This analysis features everything from surefire studs, to sleepers, to prospects that may make an appearance at some point this season. Please let me know if you guys enjoy this type of material! Reminder that the stat totals are from last season.
Anze Kopitar – 82GP 35-57-92. After a disappointing 2016-17, Kopitar was my steal of my 2017-18 fantasy draft in the later rounds. A healthy Jonathan Quick meant Kopitar could focus more on the opposite end of the ice, and it showed as he exploded for 92 points. Last year’s success coupled with addition’s to the Kings’ top-six leave Kopitar with a much higher ranking going into this fantasy season. I expect a slight regression regardless of whether Kovalchuk is on the first line or not; however, the Slovenian assist machine is a safe pick early in the draft.
Jeff Carter – 27GP 13-9-22. Despite being limited to 27 games last season Carter was able to chip in points once he returned to the lineup. I think (if healthy) he is still capable of putting up 60 or so points at the grizzled age of 33, my only concern is whether he will still be at #2C. With Kempe coming off a decent rookie campaign, it will be interesting to see whether “That 70’s Line” stays together for 2018-19. Carter at #2C is a solid pick if he is still available into the teen rounds of your draft.
Dustin Brown – 81GP 28-33-61. A promotion to the first line was able to revive the 33-year-old Brown, reaching the 60-point mark for the first time since 2007-08. Though I believe he played slightly over his head last season, Brown is still a solid pick provided he is playing with Kaptain Kopitar. With likely a new face on their line, Brown could potentially even see a boost in production. However, I am not holding my breath.
Ilya Kovalchuk – KHL: 53GP 31-32-63. Regardless of his play this season, Kovalchuk’s return to the NHL will surely be one of the headlines of the 2018-19 season. It is my prediction that the 2001 first overall pick will not be able to put up points like he used to, however there is the groundwork laid for him to have a nice season. With an elite centre in Kopitar on his line, Kovalchuk will be given plenty of opportunity to light the lamp like he used to with Atlanta and New Jersey. At 35 he is quite the gamble, however I see 70 points as an achievable total. I wouldn’t draft him before the eighth round personally, however a return to his old form could be the difference maker in tight fantasy leagues.
Tyler Toffoli – 82GP 24-23-47. Heading into his fifth full-time season as an LA King, what you see is what you get with Toffoli. Three points shy of his second-career 50-point season, it is likely that he will again hover around this mark. The play of “That 70’s Line” combined with a healthy Jeff Carter will result in a good point boost for Toffoli from last season, and perhaps even a new career high around 60 points. After all of the first-line top-tier scorers are gone in your draft and you are looking to add reliable secondary scoring, Toffoli is your guy.
Adrian Kempe – 81GP 16-21-37. Coming off his first full-time season, I am not sure what to expect from Kempe however I would err on the side of caution. With a healthy Carter and Kopitar returning to elite form, Kempe will be bumped down to #3C and his ice-time will take a sizable hit. Though he may be an option for PP time, it is unlikely that the 2014 first-rounder will be able to rack up points on third-line minutes. As mentioned earlier, there is the off-chance that Kempe jumps up into the #2C role ahead of Carter, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that.
Drew Doughty – 82GP 10-50-60. If you had the chance to read Viz’s “top 20 defencemen” article, he hit the nail right on the head with Doughty. 50 assists were slightly over his head, but as LA’s hands down top guy he is an incredibly safe pick. He will float anywhere from 40-60 points, and should be available rounds 4-6.
Jake Muzzin – 74GP 8-34-42. Muzzin is a safe pick as a #3 or #4 defenceman for a number of reasons. Finishing in the top 25 in defensive scoring, with a third of his points coming from the power play, Muzzin will consistently chip in points. This coupled with his top-pair minutes playing alongside Drew Doughty makes for the perfect storm of reliability. There are many other players around his ranking that I would rather gamble on, however he is a safe pick.
Jonathan Quick – 64GP 2.40GAA 921SV%. After missing most of the previous season due to injury, Quick was able to rebound and put up respectable numbers, boosting the Kings back into the playoffs. With the addition of a potential scoring threat in Kovalchuk, hopefully the team can improve their 17th most GF while Quick works on retaining first place for GA. A little more scoring puts a little less pressure on the 32-year-old, but regardless I am sure he will have another great season.
Daniel Brickley – NCAA: 40GP 10-25-35. After two consecutive stellar seasons in college, the 23-year-old big-bodied defenceman will look to transition to the pros this year, and has a great shot at cracking LA’s roster. Brickley made an appearance in one game last season and recorded one assist, so hopefully he can keep up his stellar career points per game! Brickley has an offensive mind and isn’t afraid to use his 6’3” frame to dish out pain. If Brickley makes the big club, I even think he has the potential to slowly work his way past Dion Phaneuf and onto the second pairing, and maybe even soak up some PP time. I am not expecting him to be great right out of the gate, however Brickley appears to be an exciting prospect.
Sheldon Rempal – NCAA: 39GP 23-23-46. Rempal is also looking to transition from college to the Pros, but will likely begin the year with Ontario (California, not Canada) in the AHL. Despite a wiry 5’10” frame, Rempal skates like the wind and displays the ability to fight for open ice and create opportunities. He will definitely need to pack on size to be able to fit into this physical Kings lineup, however he will likely be given the full year in the AHL to transition.
Rasmus Kupari – Liiga: 39GP 6-8-14. The Kings wasted no time signing their 2018 first-rounder Kupari, a Finnish forward that will likely return to Europe for this season. This kid has a terrific release and can use his speed to cross up defenders and create open space for teammates. The 18-year-old strikes me as the type of prospect that will take a year or two in Europe to mature, but will blossom into an offensive threat of a centre in the NHL.
Michael Eyssimont – NCAA: 39GP 17-22-39. Drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 draft, Eyssimont will make the jump from college to the AHL this season. What stands out for me is his compete level down low, and his puck skill. Eyssimont seems like he will fit well into the Western Conference style of hockey, however his chance likely won’t come until he finds his comfort in the minors.
Kale Clague – WHL: 54GP 11-60-71. After a massive season in the WHL and two solid showings at the WJC for Team Canada, Clague is a 2016 second-rounder that will make the jump to the pros this year. He is a creative passer and has a great amount of raw skill that can be moulded and worked at to make consistent. He is very offensive-minded and has the confidence to walk the blue line and make a few moves before shooting. This play-style is only sustainable for a select few blue liners, and Clague will be put to the test this season in Ontario.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan – WHL: 70GP 40-51-91. After two great seasons with Spokane in the WHL, it is unclear to me whether the 2017 second-round pick will be in the AHL this season or head back to major-junior. Regardless, the 5’11” centre is a swift skater, strong on the puck and has a nice release on his shot. He joined Ontario (AHL) for a five-game stint last season, recording two assists so he may step up into the minors full-time, and he will be a treat to watch.
Gabriel Vilardi – OHL: 32GP 22-36-58. Vilardi is a 2017 first-round pick by the Kings, and he is hoping to crack their lineup this season. After nearly matching his 2016-17 point total in 17 less games this past season, the 6’3” dynamic centre plays with a lot of poise for a 19-year-old. He will be put up against sophomore Kempe and veteran Thompson for a spot at C in LA’s bottom-six, but I am sure Ontario would gladly take him in for a year of development in the minors if he doesn’t crack the roster.