Pacific Division predictions

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) battles for a loose puck with Vancouver Canucks defensemen Tucker Poolman (5) Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) battles for a loose puck with Vancouver Canucks defensemen Tucker Poolman (5) Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /
2 of 9
Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports /

2.  Los Angeles Kings

Last season the Kings emerged as Pacific Division playoff contenders, after a prime in which they won two cups in 2012 and 2014, they saw the writing on the wall and blew up the franchise so they could draft and develop the next generation of Kings who would take them over the top.

Memo to the Calgary Flames – this is how you build a winning team.

The Kings already had an impressive top six, and built on that when they traded for Kevin Fiala in the offseason. They took the Oilers to seven games in last season’s playoffs, and will be even more formidable this time around.

These LA Kings are the last of the playoff contenders in the Pacific Division.

They boast an impressive array of firepower in the top six, as they have the still relevant 35 year old Anze Kopitar putting up two goals and 12 points in 14 games in the early going. He’s flanked by 2014 first round pick Adrian Kempe on the left side, who has 6-3-9 in the early going. 2017 first round pick Gabriel Valardi is on the right side, and he’s currently leading the team in scoring with 9-5-14 in 14 games – very impressive.

Philip Danault centers the second line, and he’s got 4-4-8 in 14 games. Flanking him is playmaker Trevor Moore, rescued from the toxic TO Maple Laffs, who has 2-8-10 in 14 games. On the other side it’s free agent signing from last season Viktor Arvidsson, who probably bolted Nashville because he got tired of spinning his wheels there. 3-5-8 in 12 games so far for him.

Not as good as the Oilers but still quite impressive.

Centering the third line is 2018 first round pick, Finn Rasmus Kupari. He already has two points in five games after putting up a mere 13 points in 58 games last season. If he can keep up that pace he might have 25-30 points by season’s end, which would be impressive totals for a bottom six guy. Flanking him is the aforementioned Fiala, who’s probably only playing in the bottom six because the left side is so stacked in the top six. He’s cleaning up with 14 points in 14 games. On the right side is Carl Grundstrom, who has six points 13 games, pretty good for a bottom sixer.

The fourth line is centered by Blake Lizotte, who has four goals in 14 games. On his left you have bruiser Brendan Lemieux, who still has three assists in 12 games. On his right you have 2019 second round pick Arthur Kaliyev, who has 4-5-9 in 13 games.

It appears that neither primary nor depth scoring will be a problem for this team as they are already firing on all cylinders.

On D it’s a similar story. On the left side of the first pairing is surprising fourth rounder Mikey Anderson, who has three assists in 14 games so far. After a couple of irrelevant seasons where he faded into the NHL background, Drew Doughty has become relevant again at the age of 32 – lucky for the Kings, who have him at a whopping $11 million cap hit for another four seasons after this one. While the Kings were winning cups he was one of the NHL’s best, and now that’s no longer the case but he has still managed to put up 30+ points the last three seasons. There’s a good chance age will catch up to him before this contract is up, but you can enjoy it for now.

On the second pairing we have Sean Durzi, one of two players the Kings got back from toxic TO in the Jake Muzzin trade. Six points in 13 games already, not bad. On the right side is someone the Kings managed to pluck from the seventh (!) round in 2015, Matt Roy, and he also has six points in 13 games.

On the bottom pairing is a guy likely playing his NHL swan song in Alex Edler, a veteran of 977 games and counting, he’ll crack the 1,000 games mark this season. He only has a single assist in 11 games so far. Ditto for his partner in Sean Walker, who has a single assist in 10 games so far.

There are two things that look like they hold the Kings back this year – the injury to one of their best prospects in Quinton Byfield and their goaltending, which has cratered in the early going of the season. Neither Jonathan Quick nor Cal Peterson have a sv% above .900 or a GAA below 3.0 (Peterson’s GAA is 4.3). This is the last season of a contract for the 36 year old Quick paying him $5.8 million – my money says he retires when it’s done.

They could also do with getting better on special teams, too – their PP is an anemic 23rd at 19.7% while the PK sits at an unimpressive 19th (76.8%).

If more of their young roster takes a step forward this season, and their goaltending and special teams improve, then we could see this team do some damage in the playoffs this year and in the Pacific Division.