Fantasy Puck Preview: Los Angeles Kings

Scott Cullen
9/15/2008 11:14:49 AM
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On the whole, the Los Angeles Kings look to be in for a long season. From a fantasy perspective, however, there are a number of talented young players that will command interest.

Heading the list is 21-year-old centre Anze Kopitar, a rising star who put up 77 points in his second NHL season. He's well on his way to being a point-per-game scorer and could probably be a 100-point scorer with the right supporting cast, but the unproven talent on the blueline could make it difficult for Kopitar to make a significant scoring jump this season and his plus-minus (minus-27 through two NHL seasons) will remain an issue.

Kopitar has help though. Alexander Frolov isn't quite an elite fantasy winger, but he's very good -- just below a point-per-game last season, with a plus rating for the Kings -- and should continue to improve as he approaches his peak years.

A tremendous finish to last year (26 points in 31 games after the All-Star break) should propel Patrick O'Sullivan to a big season. Given more power play time, a 70-point season is within his reach this year.

Hard-driving winger Dustin Brown keeps getting better, with last season's 33 goals and 60 points capping off increases in each category in each of his four full NHL seasons. Like Kopitar, plus-minus (minus-44 in the last three seasons) remains a sticking point, so he's not a complete fantasy winger yet.

Looking for a fresh start, centre Jarret Stoll struggled last season in his attempt to get back from a concussion that ruined his 2006-2007 season. The good news was that he stayed healthy. The bad news was that he only managed 36 points and a minus-23 rating in 81 games.

Stoll does have a big shot and can play the point on the power play if need be, so he could be a decent sleeper pick as a guy who could score 50-plus points.

One other forward worth considering will be rookie Teddy Purcell, who earned AHL Rookie of the Year honours with 83 points in 67 games last season, chipping in three points in ten games with the Kings. Don't jump on him too soon, but as a late-round flier, Purcell has potential to pay off, particularly in keeper leagues.

The blueline is totally up for grabs, with Tom Preissing the top returning scorer from last season with a grand total of 24 points.

Without any changes to the roster, Preissing could very well be the first choice to quarterback the power play and that might make him worthy of late-round fantasy consideration.

The young guns have higher upside, however. Jack Johnson only finished with 11 points in his rookie season, but he had 71 points in 74 games at the University of Michigan, so a chance on the power play would figure to boost his numbers significantly.

Next in line would be the Kings' two high first-round defencemen.

Thomas Hickey, drafted fourth overall in 2007, is one of the best puck-moving defencemen in junior hockey and the 19-year-old could challenge for a spot.

Likewise, this summer's number two pick, Drew Doughty, is going to have a legitimate chance to stick as an 18-year-old. The right-handed shooting Doughty could have immediate value on the power play, but his value is going to be much greater in keeper leagues than it's going to be this season because the Kings are likely to go through some growing pains.

Given the low expectations for the Kings, their goaltenders aren't going to be of interest in most fantasy leagues.

Jason LaBarbera was respectable last season, posting a .910 save percentage, but a goals against average of 3.00 and only 17 wins in 42 starts is only of value in the deepest of leagues.

Erik Ersberg finished so well (2.48 goals against average, .927 save percentage in 14 games) that he'll have to get a look, but he may need to duplicate those numbers to get enough playing time.

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