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2022-23 Fantasy Hockey Outlook: Los Angeles Kings

Can you find some fantasy hockey value with the Los Angeles Kings this season? Jason Chen takes a look.
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The fantasy season is upon us. Another year of tears of joy and heartbreak.

To help you along, here’s your fantasy outlook for the Los Angeles Kings:

2022-23 Fantasy Outlook: Los Angeles Kings

Last season: 44-27-11, 3rd Pacific, 14th overall. GF: 20th, GA: 10th, PP: 27th, PK: 22nd.

The Kings were pleasant surprises and punched above their weight, but it was a particularly fitting finish to Dustin Brown’s career. The former Kings captain, who held that role for eight years, had only scored more than 60 points just once in his career but battled every night and exceeded expectations for someone who was much less talented than some of his first-round peers. Brown retired as the games played leader among the 2003 draftees at 1,296 games, all of them with the Kings, and ranks 10th in total points with 712. He had scrapped his way to the top, and the Kings did much of the same in 2021-22, making the playoffs for the first time since 2018.

The Kings knew they had to improve quickly while Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar were top-tier players. The four rookies who played at least 40 games each – Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, Quinton Byfield and Sean Durzi – were all solid contributors and combined with a career season from Adrian Kempe with 35 goals and Trevor Moore with 48 points, and two very good additions in Philip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson, the Kings were a very well-rounded team. Scoring and special teams were a problem, but they took advantage of a relative weak Pacific Division with their consistency, finishing with a losing record in only one of the seven months of regular-season play and overcame inconsistent performances from Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen.

Their stubborn, grinding style made them a popular pick to upset the more skillful Oilers in the first round; that almost came to fruition with the Kings coming just one win shy of staging an upset sans Doughty, but ended up losing in seven games. Despite the early exit, it was a very good showing by the Kings, and also gave notice to the rest of the league that they’re just knocking on the doorstep. All they need now is a little more time.

Best fantasy option: Kevin Fiala, LW/RW

In banger leagues, it’s the ever-reliable Kopitar by a mile, who is almost guaranteed to score 60 points and top-10 in faceoff wins. In the three seasons he failed to score at least 60 points in his 16-year career, two of them were shortened by a lockout and a pandemic, and in those two seasons would’ve been on pace to score at least 70 in a full season. However, Father Time is undefeated, and at 35 years old, the probability of Kopitar’s play declining becomes greater with each passing year.

That leaves Fiala, who emerged last season as a point-per-game player without having to play with Kirill Kaprizov all the time, and an exciting, top-five, tear-your-hair-out-or-jump-for-joy fantasy option. He’s the best scoring winger the Kings have had in the cap era; look it up – their top three wingers by points are Brown (707), Alex Frolov (302) and Tyler Toffoli (290), Marian Gaborik was 31 and held together by superglue when he arrived, and the late Pavol Demitra played only one season. His production, however, will depend on who he plays with, and the Kings have never been known to be a high-scoring team. Their identity has always been about playing a solid two-way game at 5-on-5, and note the discrepancy between BetMGM’s over/under points (80) and THN Pool Guide’s projection (63 points). Fiala’s talent, high-volume shooting and potential top-line role with a significant increase in minutes makes him a defensible early-round choice.

Hidden gem: Adrian Kempe, LW/RW

Ignoring the obvious potential breakout seasons from sophomores Byfield and Kaliyev, Kempe’s in a good spot to continue where he left off. He’s assured a top-six role on a team lacking in scoring depth, and if he ends up on the same line as Fiala, they could really help raise each other’s games. Naysayers will point out Kempe’s career 35-goal season was an anomaly with a career-high 14.0 S%, and more than double his career-high of 16. However, 14.0 S% isn’t abnormally high, and Kempe’s playing style has also changed, becoming a high-volume shooter and finishing 26th in the league with 247 shots. Even if Kempe’s scoring regresses a little – though 25 goals should be easily attainable with top-six minutes – he can be an underrated source of hits. Of the 51 forwards who scored at least 30 goals last season, Kempe is only one of nine players (Svechnikov, DeBrincat, Forsberg, Kreider, B. Tkachuk, Meier, Miller, Ovechkin) also to register over 100 hits.

Goalies

This is certainly the weakest part of all the Kings’ fantasy options. Petersen couldn’t wrestle the starting job from Quick, who ended up being the starter once again when it looked like he would be the full-time backup. The good news is the Kings’ blue line has good depth and their style makes it difficult for the opposition to score goals, but this looks like yet another nightmare situation for fantasy managers. You’ll be forced to either roster both goalies or hope they’re available on the waiver wire all season and just keep switching them for streaming starts. The smart money is on Petersen long-term, but note this is the final year of Quick’s contract and he may be very motivated by the prospect of potentially extending his career beyond 2023.

Outlook

The time isn’t now to bet on the Kings’ young players. It’s still very much Kopitar and Doughty’s team, and they represent two of the most reliable options. Doughty was on pace for a renaissance season with 31 points in 39 games before he was injured, and the fire that burned so deeply after being written off and kept off Team Canada’s mock rosters for 2022 might still have plenty of life. Fiala has the chance to become the team’s leading scorer and Kempe was covered above, but also don’t forget about Viktor Arvidsson, who is a good bet to score 20-30 goals every season and Danault, a defensive center who gets some good offensive opportunities and also an excellent source of faceoffs won. 

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