Fantasy Puck Preview: Los Angeles Kings

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Scott Cullen
9/28/2010 12:23:57 PM
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The Los Angeles Kings have been patient, building a team from the ground up, and after missing the playoffs for six seasons, they returned to the postseason last year and it appears to be just the beginning for a promising young team.

Not yet 21, Drew Doughty is already among the very best defencemen in the game, and he's gold for fantasy purposes.

There were four defencemen in the NHL last year to have at least 50 points and a rating of plus-20 or better and Doughty was one; Mike Green, Duncan Keith and Chris Pronger were the others and while all of them are great, Doughty is the only one who is just starting to achieve to his vast potential.

Patience in developing defenceman Jack Johnson started to pay off last season. Though he was a double-digit minus for a third consecutive season, Johnson was a plus-3 in the final third of the season and broke through offensively with 36 points.

If Johnson can just stay on the right side of the plus-minus ledger, he'll be a valuable commodity.

Big and skilled centre Anze Kopitar tallied a career-high 81 points in 2009-2010, but a slump from late November through December (six points in 17 games) prevented him from challenging for 100 points. He's only 23, so Kopitar's career should continue on an upward arc for the next few seasons anyway.

Though he missed some time with injuries, Ryan Smyth was a productive winger, scoring 22 goals and 53 points in 67 games, the tenth time in his career he's scored 20 goals and tenth time he's scored 50 points. The 34-year-old may be slowing down, but he can still get to the net, making him a valuable complement to a dynamic centre like Kopitar.

Hard-hitting winger Dustin Brown is durable (having missed 10 games in the last five seasons) and has three consecutive years with at least 20 goals and 50 points, but there is a downside -- last year's minus-6 was his best since his 31-game rookie season. Expected to play alongside Kopitar, Brown's production should be there and maybe this will be the year he escapes from the minuses.

Veteran centre Jarret Stoll seems well removed from his 68-point season with Edmonton in 2005-2006, but still retains some value in deeper leagues because of his power play presence, scoring 21 of his 47 points with the man advantage last season -- the fourth time in the last five seasons that he's put up at least 20 power play points.

Injuries have derailed the once-promising career of Justin Williams, as last year's 49 games was his most since 2006-2007, back when he was a 30-goal scorer. Now, he's really only worth having if he happens to be playing with Kopitar.

Alexei Ponikarovsky struggled after he was acquired by Pittsburgh last season, yet surpassed 20 goals for the fourth time in the last five seasons and his 50 points ranked as the second-best total of his career. He's not a featured offensive performer, but contributes enough to be considered in deeper leagues.

A sound two-way pivot, Michal Handzus has scored more than 50 points just twice in 11 seasons and is coming off back-to-back 42 point campaigns. At a deep position like centre, that may not be enough to generate fantasy interest.

Rough-and-tumble right winger Wayne Simmonds had an outstanding sophomore season, scoring 40 points and adding 116 penalty minutes along with a plus-22 rating and all that came in fewer than 15 minutes of ice time per game.

The Kings also have a couple of wildcard rookies that could earn more significant roles as the season goes on. Brayden Schenn and Andrei Loktionov will be worth keeping tabs on, just in case.

Goaltending is an interesting situation for the Kings. Jonathan Quick surprised by handling such a heavy workload (72 games) last season, posting respectable numbers (39 wins, 2.54 GAA, .907 SVPCT) along the way.

However, Quick is going to be pushed by promising youngster Jonathan Bernier, the 11th overall pick in 2006, who allowed four goals in three games with the Kings last season and dominated the AHL with a 2.03 goals against average and .936 save percentage for Manchester.

Quick is established as the No. 1, but Bernier's higher ceiling makes him likely to take over the job this season.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Kopitar and Drew Doughty (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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