James O'Brien

2010 NHL Draft Portraits

Looking to make the leap: Jordan Weal

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Fighting to eventually win two Stanley Cups is worth the cost of taking risks, but the Los Angeles Kings’ farm system has seen consequences from regular trade deadline moves.

Jewels From the Crown took a look at how much shallower the Kings’ prospect pool has become, something that seems clearer after the very clear graduations of scorers Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.

That said, there are still a couple prime-age players looking to make a dent on the NHL roster, including forward Jordan Weal.

It’s about that time for Weal. The 23-year-old was a third-rounder (70th overall) back in 2010, and he’s shown a solid knack for putting up points at the AHL level.

After scoring 70 points for the Manchester Monarchs in 2013-14, he nearly matched that output last season with 69 points. He really took off during the 2015 Calder Cup playoffs, scoring 22 points in 19 postseason games.

Weal thinks he has what it takes to take the next step, as NHL.com noted during his strong AHL playoff run.

“They have a great team up there and it’s really a great organization,” Weal said. “I can’t ask for more. They’ve given me lots of opportunity to play pro and get drafted and I think I’m ready to take the next step and play with them. But you never know. It’s tough to crack a team like that.”

Unlike Nick Shore and Andy Andreoff, Weal has yet to get his first taste of NHL action. The 2015-16 season represents his best chance to change that, especially after a strong finish with the Monarchs.

It’s Los Angeles Kings day at PHT

Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar
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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Los Angeles Kings.

Two consistent contenders – the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings – missed the playoffs last season, and while both underwent changes, they practiced very different philosophies.

The Bruins blew much of what they built up while, to some extent, the Kings are going all-in. It seems fitting that the two franchises can also be linked in the trade that sent Milan Lucic to L.A.

In attempting to assess how rattled the Kings should be by missing the playoffs, it’s key to ask why they fell short.

Plenty of outlets pondered what went wrong, spotlighting Slava Voynov’s legal issues, misplaced money in fading figures such as Dustin Brown and some shaky luck. Let’s not forget that, as dominant as this franchise has been puck possession-wise, they haven’t won a Pacific Division title during this span and often struggled to make the postseason. Maybe they merely need to accept the fact that they’ll frequently deal with a small margin for error?

The West is as rugged as ever, so it won’t be easy, but many will likely peg the Kings as a team that should bounce back to the 2016 postseason.

Off-season recap

The Kings stuck with the architect in GM Dean Lombardi and the director in head coach Darryl Sutter. The cast of characters did change in some significant ways, however.

“Mr. Game 7” Justin Williams helped the Kings win the 2014 Stanley Cup, but now he’s a member of the Washington Capitals, and not at an exorbitant price either.

However the contract-termination grievance situation works out, Mike Richards is gone; Jarret Stoll left as a free agent, yet he’s out of Los Angeles amid controversy as well. Andrej Sekera’s short time with the Kings is already over after he signed with the Edmonton Oilers.

It’s not all about subtractions, though, as the Kings added Milan Lucic to the mix. Lucic and potential linemate Anze Kopitar both enter contract years, so it should be intriguing to see how that motivation propels a top line that may also include Marian Gaborik.

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The Kings are a fascinating team to forecast, so we’ll get down to business in that regard on Monday.

PHT Morning Skate: The Replacements

Washington Capitals Press Conference Introducing New Head Coach Dale Hunter
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Could we see the return of Dale Hunter? Five potential candidates to replace NHL coaches during the NHL season. (Sportsnet)

How Ben Bishop traveled a long, winding road to success. (The Hockey News)

One argument for Johan Franzen to retire from hockey. (Puck Daddy)

What “defines” the St. Louis Blues? (St. Louis Game Time)

In Lou We Trust ponders the situation at hand for players who were “dead weight” for the New Jersey Devils during the 2014-15 season. (In Lou We Trust)

Who should be the next captain for the San Jose Sharks? (Fear the Fin)

Dawww:

Sabres’ Gorges is happy about how his knee is healing

Buffalo Sabres v Montreal Canadiens
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When he wasn’t suffering through losses with the Buffalo Sabres last season, veteran defenseman Josh Gorges was dealing with pain.

His 2014-15 season was cut short by knee surgery back in February. The 31-year-old is no stranger to rehabbing injuries, so perhaps that explains why he seems optimistic when speaking with the Montreal Gazette late last week.

“It’s been a long road, six months of doing rehab every day, trying to get things back,” Gorges said. “The last couple of weeks I’ve really taken another step in my recovery – from just getting back on the ice to now starting to feel normal in my skating again, able to do all the things I want to do in a game. I’ve been really happy with how things have gone lately.”

Taking the slow approach might make some antsy, but Gorges knows he “doesn’t need to be an idiot” at this stage of his career.

On that note, he seems comfortable transitioning to the role of telling others not to be idiots.

The Sabres are bringing in a lot of young talent, and while Gorges insists that everyone needs to take part of the leadership task, he stands as one of the most experienced hands on the roster. Some might argue, then, that he’s nearly as important for the locker room as he is on the ice.

Of course, his words won’t resonate much if he can’t play at all. It sounds like he’s putting himself in position for a healthy return.

Luongo: Panthers cannot accept anything ‘beneath’ playoffs

Roberto Luongo
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When you miss the playoffs as often as the Florida Panthers do, it may be tough to raise expectations.

Roberto Luongo and Jaromir Jagr are far more accustomed to success after game 82 of a season, however, and the Panthers’ goalie is adamant that the team must set its sights on the postseason.

NHL.com transcribed some of Luongo’s more confident comments:

“Last year we weren’t quite sure what we were going to get; we had a lot of new faces and a new coaching staff,” Luongo said. “This year it’s time to take that next step. It’s really all about the playoffs for our team; nothing beneath that will be acceptable. I think as a group we realize that and demand that of ourselves.”source: Getty Images

Florida did make some strides, but falling seven points short of the playoffs is more of a sign of work to do than some might expect (especially after it was sold as “just an extra win every six weeks”). In the age of “loser points,” seven standings points is actually a pretty significant margin.

That said, the Panthers were growing together, as Luongo mentioned. Setting the bar higher is important for young players who are developing as well as veterans who want to earn a few more shots at glory.

Want more on Luongo and the Panthers? PHT covered a lot of bases on that subject a few days ago:

Luongo is under pressure

How well will they mix the old with the new?

Panthers’ outlook in 2015-16