LOS ANGELES — Drew Doughty has never been one to shy away from high expectations. So, as the defenseman enters his 14th season with Los Angeles, he thinks the Kings have enough talent to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
“I think that’s our goal this year,” Doughty said. “We’re not gonna just automatically make it, but I think for me and everyone else, that’s our goal.”
The Kings are still in rebuilding mode but many of their young prospects are on the verge of contributing to a roster that still has some cornerstone veterans, including forwards Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, goaltender Jonathan Quick and Doughty.
While recent first-round picks Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte are in the mix for spots on the opening night roster, the Kings did add some pieces during the offseason to make them more competitive. They acquired forward Viktor Arvidsson from Nashville and signed center Phillip Danault and defenseman Alex Edler during free agency.
The offseason additions are a sign to Kopitar that they are past being strictly in rebuilding mode.
“It’s on us to take the next step and be in the mix when March and April come around and hopefully make the playoffs,” said the team captain, who went past the 1,000-point milestone last season.
While Kopitar and Doughty are looking to take the next step, coach Todd McLellan has more immediate concerns, such as trying to get the Kings off to a good start.
“We’re moving forward, but we need to improve before we declare ourselves playoff-ready,” he said. “Are we capable of it? I think we have the right players to do it, but can we get our game together quick enough, and maintain it long enough during the season to compete for that? We’ll figure that out as we go.”
TOP LINE CHANGE?
Arvidsson is likely to be on the first line with Kopitar and Dustin Brown, but there is a possibility Alex Iafallo could stay with Kopitar and Brown. If that happens, Arvidsson, Danault and Adrian Kempe would be the second line.
Los Angeles and Arvidsson are hoping for a beneficial partnership. The Kings averaged only 2.54 goals per game last season — fifth worst in the league — while Arvidsson is looking to regain his scoring prowess. He is a two-time 30-goal scorer but has just 25 goals the past two seasons.
TRANSITION IN NET
Cal Petersen is under contract for the next four seasons after recently signing a three-year extension and could supplant Jonathan Quick as the No. 1 goaltender.
Petersen was already starting more games than Quick, who missed the final two weeks of the regular season due to a rib injury. Petersen played in a career-high 35 games last season, but went 9-18-5 with a 2.89 goals against average and .911 save percentage. Quick went 11-9-2 and had a 2.86 GAA, but his save percentage was .898. Of the 39 goalies who have played 80 or more games the past three seasons, Quick is tied for the worst save percentage (.896) and has the fourth-worst goals-against (3.05).
Quick, who was in net when the Kings won Stanley Cups in 2012 and ’14, was left unprotected in the expansion draft.
KEEP AN EYE ON …
Byfield, who was the second pick in the 2020 draft. The 19-year old center — who had one assist in six NHL games last season — will either be on the fourth line on opening night or preparing for the start of the American Hockey League season with Ontario. If he is in Ontario, it shouldn’t be long before he gets called up.
Turcotte, the fifth overall pick in 2019, and Arthur Kaliyev are also waiting in the wings. Kaliyev led Ontario in goals (14) and points (31) last season.
The Kings are back in the Pacific Division, which includes four teams that did not make the playoffs as well as expansion Seattle. Vegas and Edmonton are the class of the division, but the final automatic playoff berth could be a scramble between the Kings, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks.