NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2021-22 regular season, which starts Oct. 12. Today, five questions facing the Los Angeles Kings:
1. Will their additions lead to a playoff return?
Viktor Arvidsson (acquired in a trade with the Nashville Predators on July 1) and Phillip Danault (signed a six-year contract July 28) provide the Kings the depth they needed at forward and a better chance of clinching their first berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2017-18. Danault is a reliable two-way center projected to play on the second line behind captain Anze Kopitar, and Arvidsson is a two-time 30-goal scorer in the NHL.
Los Angeles has one win (Game 3 of the 2016 Western Conference First Round against the San Jose Sharks) in two postseason appearances since winning the Stanley Cup in 2014. The Kings were 21-28-7 last season, sixth in the eight-team Honda West Division and 14 points behind the fourth-place St. Louis Blues.
2. Can Arvidsson regain his form and spark the offense?
The Kings are hoping for the Arvidsson who played on a dominant first line with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen that helped Nashville reach the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, scored an NHL career-high 61 points in 2016-17 and 2017-18 and a Predators single-season high 34 goals in 2018-19. Arvidsson has since scored 25 goals in 107 games the past two seasons, with a 6.6 percent shooting percentage in 2020-21 that was his lowest since his rookie season of 2015-16 (5.8 percent). Los Angeles scored 142 goals last season, fifth-fewest in the NHL. Nine were scored into an empty net.
3. Will there be a changing of the guard in goal?
Calvin Petersen will be evaluated to see if he’s the long-term replacement for Jonathan Quick. The 26-year-old can become an unrestricted free agent after this season and started more games last season (32) than Quick (22), a 35-year-old and two-time Stanley Cup winner (2012, 2014) who has had a save percentage no higher than .904 in each of his past three seasons. Petersen is 19-25-6 with a 2.79 goals-against average, .916 save percentage and one shutout in 54 NHL games (50 starts), including 9-18-5 with a 2.89 GAA and .911 save percentage last season. Quick was left unprotected for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and has two seasons left on a 10-year contract he signed July 1, 2012.
4. How do they handle the transition at defenseman?
Drew Doughty, 31, has led the Kings in average time on ice every season since joining the NHL in 2008-09, including 26:23 last season, when Los Angeles averaged 3.02 goals against per game. Alexander Edler, 35, signed a one-year contract July 28 after 15 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks.
But Tobias Bjornfot, 20, and Mikey Anderson, 22, are in line for bigger roles. Anderson scored 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 54 games and averaged 21:11 of ice time; Bjornfot scored six points (one goal, five assists) in 33 games and averaged 16:51.
Brandt Clarke, the No. 8 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, signed a three-year, entry-level contract Aug. 10 but is expected to play with Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League this season.
5. Which prospects will blossom this season?
Quinton Byfield, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, had one assist in six NHL games last season and could earn more time after the 19-year-old center potentially begins this season with Ontario of the American Hockey League. Forwards Alex Turcotte, 20, and Arthur Kaliyev, 20, each made his professional debut last season. Turcotte, who scored 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) in 32 AHL games, is expected to be ready for the start of rookie camp Sept. 16 after having surgery for acute appendicitis Aug. 25. Kaliyev led Ontario in goals (14) and points (31) in 40 games despite being held without a point in his first four, and scored 12 points (six goals, six assists) in his final 10 regular-season games.
Optimism remains high for Gabriel Vilardi, a 22-year-old center who recovered from chronic back issues to score 10 seconds into the first shift of his NHL debut against the Florida Panthers on Feb. 20, 2020. He scored 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) in 54 games last season.
“I think you’ve got an abundance of young players that really only had a half a year in the American league last year,” Kings general manager Rob Blake said in July. “It takes time, and you don’t want to put them in a position where they’re not prepared. We want to see them where when they do come in the lineup, they’re going to help us win.”