Forbort’s finally arrived, which is vital for the Kings

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For a while, Derek Forbort‘s claim to fame was somewhat ignominious — he was the last first-round pick from 2010 to make his NHL debut.

But now, Forbort is a mainstay on the Kings’ defense. Helene Elliott of the L.A. Times has a good piece on his emergence — read more on that here — which includes the following:

Given a chance this season to fill a key role when Brayden McNabb sustained an upper-body injury, Forbort has seized the opportunity. He logged a season-high 23 minutes, 44 seconds’ ice time against New Jersey last Saturday and had 23:17 of ice time against the Ducks on Sunday while matching his season-best total of five blocked shots.

Forbort has played at least 20 minutes in six of his last seven games. He has contributed a goal and six points.

This is a big development for Forbort, and equally big for the Kings.

When L.A won its second Stanley Cup in 2014, it did so with five regular d-men in the mix: Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Slava Voynov, Willie Mitchell and Alec Martinez (Matt Greene, Robyn Regehr and Jeff Schultz platooned in the No. 6 spot).

Voynov, Mitchell, Regehr and Schultz are now gone.

The Kings have tried various stopgap solutions — Jamie McBain, Andrej Sekera, Christian Ehrhoff, Rob Scuderi, Luke Schenn, Tom Gilbert — and received middling results. None proved to be a long-term solution, and some weren’t even a short-term one.

Which is why Forbort, 24, is so important.

This year, head coach Darryl Sutter has relied heavily on Doughty, Muzzin and Martinez. Each averages over 22 minutes per night, and McNabb was the only other blueliner getting 20-plus (prior to his injury). L.A. could certainly use another guy with top-four potential and, to hear Doughty explain it, Forbort could be exactly that.

“[Forbort] has some good offensive abilities too, but for the most part he’s a good puck mover, plays hard in the D-zone, but no he can be a very good player for us,” Doughty said, per L.A. Kings Insider. “You can see how much he’s improved in such little time here in the NHL and I think he’s just going to keep getting better and he could be one of our top guys going down the road.”