The Los Angeles Kings return to the ice in 2013 with almost the exact same roster as last season, when the team won its first ever Stanley Cup. The team has a good mix of forwards on the wing, ranging from goal scores to hard hitters, and includes both youthfulness and veteran leadership.
Dustin Brown RW/LW
As the captain of the Kings, Brown holds the responsibility of leading his team both on and off the ice. He could not have done a better job of it last season, and during the 2012 playoffs. The guy played as physical a brand of hockey as there is, and his key goals and huge hits carried this team to the end. Brown always seems to play his best hockey when the team needs him most, and on the biggest of stages. But things weren't always so rosy last season, as the team struggled to score goals and win games consistently. Trade rumors surfaced around Brown last winter during the February trade deadline, as the team was in the midst of a slump, losing four straight games. Brown put the team on his back in a Feb. 25 game against the Chicago Blackhawks, providing a hand in each of the four goals scored by the team in a 4-0 victory. He had a hat trick that night, scoring 3 goals, and adding an assist. The trade rumors immediately vanished, and Brown proceeded to collect points in 10 straight games. He had 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) during that 10-game point streak, and 23 points (8 goals, 15 assists) over the last 21 games of the regular season. The Kings, lead by their American born captain, finished the season 13-5-3 over those last 21 games, clinching the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
During the 2012 playoffs, Brown scored at a point-per-game rate, accumulating 20 points (8 goals, 12 assists) in 20 games, while handing out 93 hits and posting a plus- 16 rating. He truly did it all. The captain continued to record an impressive number of hits, totaling 293 last season, after leading the league in that category in 2010-11 with 300 hits.
He has the ability to change the momentum of a game with one big play. He can hit hard, score goals, and has a willingness to play hard on the defensive end, making Brown a quality leader by example. The team took on his identity during last years postseason, which is the ultimate praise for a team captain, and the mark of a superb leader. Playing a physical and tenacious style of hockey, the Kings went on to win the Stanley Cup under the guidance of their captain, Dustin Brown.
Justin Williams RW
Williams played on the first line last season, along with Brown and center Anze Kopitar, and will do so again this season barring any dramatic changes by head coach Darryl Sutter. Williams excels offensively, and his play making abilities and intelligence on the ice make him a good fit with Anze Kopitar on the Kings' top line. Williams has battled through plenty of injuries throughout his career, but was finally able to stay healthy last season, playing in all 82 games for just the third time in his 11 NHL seasons. He was second in scoring for the Kings last season, with 59 points (22 goals, 37 assists), and finished with a plus- 10 in 2011-12. Williams also had a successful postseason, collecting 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists) in 20 playoff games during last year's championship run. The Cobourg, Ontario native is an important part of the Kings' special teams play, scoring nine goals and adding 10 assists (19 points) on the power-play last season. At 6-1, 195 pounds, the 31-year-old right winger isn't the most physical of players, but instead uses his speed and cleverness to keep possession of the puck and make plays for others. As long as Williams can stay healthy again in 2013, he should post similar numbers, making the Kings' first line a threat on a nightly basis.
Jeff Carter RW
Carter was acquired by the Kings from the Columbus Blue Jackets during last years mid-season NHL trade defenseman. The London, Ontario native was obtained, in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson, to help a struggling offense that failed to find consistent scoring outside of its first line. He brought with him a well-known wicked wrist shot, a weapon he used to help the Kings win games late in the season and on into the playoffs. Carter scored six goals, and added three assists (9 points) in 16 regular-season games, along with eight goals and five assists (13 points) in 20 playoff games with the Kings in 2012.
The 6-3, 200 pound winger was selected 11th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2003 NHL Draft, and has scored as many as 46 goals in an NHL season. He has a knack for putting the puck in the net, and his presence on the Kings' second line, along with his former Flyers linemate Mike Richards, adds tremendous depth to the team's top six forwards.
Dustin Penner LW
After struggling to find his game for nearly a season and a half with the Kings, Penner finally experienced a bright moment with the team in last year's playoffs. He scored the series-clinching goal in overtime of game 5 in the 2012 Conference Finals, sending the Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals for just the second time in franchise history. Penner endured probably the worst regular-season performance of his career in 2011-12, scoring a measly 7 goals and 10 assists (17 points) in 65 games, but redeemed himself to an extent with his series-clinching goal.
Penner is a 6-4, 245 pound winger, and with his size, should be more of a physical force than he has been with the Kings. He tallied 90 hits in 65 games last season, which is a decent number for most players, but not for a guy who's as big and as strong as he is. Penner is at his best when he parks his big frame in front of the opposing teams net, screening the goaltender and attracting attention from the defense.
The seven-year veteran has had his work ethic and physical shape questioned in the past. Fans in Los Angeles can only hope that Penner continued to work hard during the lengthy NHL lockout. It's hard to predict what kind of performance the Kings will get from Penner in 2013, but at the very least, his confidence should be at its highest point since he was acquired in 2011 from the Edmonton Oilers.
Trevor Lewis RW
The teams hasn't really expected much offensively from Lewis in the past, although the Salt Lake City, UT native began to show some offensive spark during last year's playoff run. After mustering up just seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) in 72 games during the 2011-12 season, Lewis surpassed his regular-season point total in just 20 playoff games, scoring three goals, and adding six assists for a total of 9 points.
Lewis showed he can be an extremely reliable player defensively, earning the trust of his coach, and receiving added playing time as a result of it. He plays physical on both ends of the ice, accumulating 65 hits in 20 playoff games last year.
Lewis was the Kings' 17th overall pick in 2006, and was originally drafted as a center before becoming a good fit as a right winger on the third line. The third line for the Kings is relied upon to be a checking line, utilizing its minutes to wear down opponents physically, and chipping in occasionally with offense. As a former center, Lewis has good speed and acceleration, and is a good skater, helping him get up and down the ice to cover the puck. After showing solid progress at the end of last season, it will be interesting to see if Lewis can take his game to the next level in 2013.
Dwight King LW
As a rookie last season, King had a positive impact on the team following his February call-up from the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings' minor league affiliate. King had five goals and nine assists (14 points) in 27 regular-season games, and five goals with three assists (8 points) in 20 playoff games. At just 23 years of age, the Kings' fourth round selection in 2007 showed promise while playing with the third line for most of last year. His solid play earned him a stay with the team for the remainder of last season, and likely on into 2013.
King is a 6-3, 220 pound power forward who uses his big body to punish opponents and keep them off the puck. It remains to be seen whether King will take another big step forward or not in his sophomore season. One thing's for sure though, with a name like his, he was fit to be a King.
Jordan Nolan RW
Similar to Dwight King, Nolan is a full-sized physical forward, and the two are actually comparable in size. Both players were called up from the Manchester Monarchs to make their NHL debuts on the same day, against the New York Islanders on Feb 11, 2012, and both players earned themselves a stay with the pro team due to their encouraging performances. At 6-3, 230 pounds, Nolan uses his size to his advantage well, and his solid defensive play earned him a spot on the fourth line for the remainder of last season. He scored two goals with two assists in the regular season, and one goal with one assist in 20 playoff games last year. The Kings' seventh round pick in 2009 piled up 59 hits in just 26 games during the 2011-12 regular season, while playing limited minutes on the bottom line.
Kyle Clifford LW
Clifford is another young player on the Kings' roster who fits in well with the fourth line. The second-year player has totaled 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists) and 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) respectively in his first two seasons in the NHL. He is the type of player who looks for contact and finishes his checks. At 6-1, 200 pounds, Clifford is another player on the Kings' roster that displays good size and strength on the ice, and is never afraid to drop the gloves to protect himself or a teammate. It will be interesting to see how the fourth line plays out at the start of this season, as there are quite a few guys who can produce on the bottom line. At this point, it is unclear who coach Sutter will go with on that line, leaving the young left winger with a bit of uncertainty to deal with.
Simon Gagne LW
The Kings signed Gagne to their roster prior to the 2011-12 season, in hopes that his scoring abilities would create some depth offensively for the team. But Gagne played in just 34 games last season before suffering a concussion in Dec. 2011. He posted a career-low 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists) and failed to make a return to the ice for the remainder of the regular-season. The 32-year-old finally made his comeback late in the postseason, playing in the final four games of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals against the New Jersey Devils. He failed to make much of an impact in those four games, playing limited minutes following a long absence, but was able to hoist the cup over his head after the Kings had claimed their Stanley Cup victory.
Gagne is a proven goal scorer, recording 20 or more goals seven times during his 12 year career, including a career high 47 goals in 2005-06 while playing in Philadelphia. Gagne played mostly on the fourth line for the Kings after he returned to action during the final round of last year's playoffs. Heading into the season, it is unclear where coach Sutter will place him, but he's probably not the best fit on the fourth line. At 6-0, 195 pounds, Gagne doesn't employ a very physical style of play, but instead uses his quickness to find open spaces on the ice. The Kings signed him to score goals, and assuming he's healthy this year, Gagne will have a chance to provide some much-needed secondary scoring beyond the first line.
Brad Richardson LW/RW
Richardson is another player on the roster who has some uncertainty hanging over his head, as the Kings have quite a few solid fourth-line options at the wing position. Richardson was in and out of the lineup last season, scoring five goals, and adding three assists in 59 games played. The Belleville, Ontario native scored one goal in 13 playoff games for the Kings in 2012. He has good speed and quickness, and is a decent playmaker, but at 5-11, 185 pounds, his size is a concern on a physical fourth line for the Kings. It is likely that Richardson will be in and out of the lineup again, requiring some unfortunate circumstance related to injury in order for him to earn any quality ice time in 2013.
The recently acquired Stewart is the newest member of the defending Stanley Cup champions. He is the only player who was not a part of the Kings' organization last season, and at 6-2, 230 pounds, adds even more might and mass to an already physical roster. He had career highs with 14 goals, 25 assists, and 39 points in 2010-11 while playing with the Atlanta Thrashers. Stewart has a hard and accurate shot, and is most useful when parking his strong frame in front of the opposing team's net.
"Sifting Through the Kingdom" is a mini-series of articles that will, in parts, examine the depth of the Los Angeles Kings' 2013 roster.
Tags: Anthony Stewart, Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner, Hockey, Jeff Carter, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Richards, NHL, NHL Lockout, Simon Gagne