Derek Forbort

Looking at the 2019-20 Los Angeles Kings

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the 2019-20 Los Angeles Kings.

2019-20 Los Angeles Kings

Record: 29-35-6 (64 points in 70 games), seventh in the Pacific Division, second-worst in West
Leading Scorer: Anze Kopitar – 62 points (21 goals and 41 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves

Season Overview

After exceeding expectations in 2017-18, the Kings crashed to earth in 2018-19. Jarringly so, to many of us.

If you look at the Kings’ place in the standings alone, you’d probably assume that 2019-20 represents the team settling into the new normal. To some extent, that’s true. In the grand scheme of things, every time the Kings make an overture toward rebuilding, they’re likely being smart.

But unlike a lot of other cellar dwellers, the Kings actually held their own by many measures. The Kings ranked somewhere between respectable to downright impressive in analytics terms. Take, for instance, how solid Los Angeles looks in Charting Hockey’s Shot Shares chart, which uses data from Evolving Hockey:

Not bad for a team that sits second-worst in the Western Conference, right?

Through their Stanley Cup-contending years, the Kings hogged the puck but sometimes struggled to finish. Such a formula worked well during their postseason runs.

This version of the Kings is a weakened form of that, but if you squint, you could see glimpses of those former glories. Not enough to win a meaningful number of games. And, no, certainly not to the point that you’d want to sabotage their rebuild.

Yet it’s amusing that the bounces finally started to go the Kings’ way as 2019-20 came to a halt.

Highlight of the Season

How could it be anything other than rattling off a baffling seven-game winning streak to “end” their season?

Indeed, as 2019-20 ended, the Kings’ winning streak was far and away the longest active streak in the NHL.

The Kings authored a decent larger stretch, too, going 10-2-1 in 13 games from Feb. 12 – March 11.

That home-heavy stretch cemented that, if nothing else, they were pesky at home. The Kings ended up 19-13-2 in Los Angeles this season, versus 10-22-4 on the road.

Upsetting the Avalanche in their 2020 Stadium Series game ranks as a highlight for the 2019-20 Kings, too.

MORE ON THE KINGS:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Flames get Gustafsson from Blackhawks, Forbort from Kings

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While one team in Alberta spent Monday bolstering its forward depth, Calgary spent the day trying to strengthen its defense.

First, the Flames acquired defenseman Derek Forbort from the Los Angeles Kings for a fourth-round draft pick.

The bigger move, though, is the one that saw them get Erik Gustafsson from the Chicago Blackhawks for a third-round pick.

Gustaffson is purely an offensive-defenseman and should bring some added scoring punch to Calgary’s blue line.

He may never going to repeat the 16-goal, 60-point season he had for the Blackhawks a year ago, but he is still on track for close to 10 goals and 40 points this season. He is not going to be the player you want playing 25 minutes against other team’s top players every night, but if you put him in the right spot and put him into situations where he can excel offensively he can be a really useful player.

He is an unrestricted free agent after this season and signed for just $1.2 million against the salary cap.

For the Blackhawks, trading Gustafsson (and Robin Lehner to Vegas) is a pretty clear sign that management has given up on the playoffs this season. And rightfully so. The team has completely stalled out with its current roster and is headed for its third consecutive non-playoff season. The time has come to look toward the future.

What’s surprising here — and probably a little disappointing if you are a Blackhawks fan — is that they were only able to get a third-round pick for him. That seems like an incredibly low return, especially when San Jose was able to get a first-round pick for Barclay Goodrow and Montreal was able to get two draft picks for Marco Scandella, including a second-rounder. Even Forbort went for a fourth-round pick and he has only played in 13 games this season.

Given Gustaffson’s production and low salary cap hit you would have thought he would have more value around the league.

The big takeaway from that has to be that teams did not feel the defensive shortcomings were worth the offensive upside.

In the end, the Blackhawks received a backup goalie, a prospect, and second-and third-round draft picks for Gustafsson and Robin Lehner. Even with the fact they are both rentals, that does not seem like enough.

 

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL on NBCSN: 5 Kings that could be traded before deadline

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Last year, the St. Louis Blues proved that being in last place in early January doesn’t mean your season is over. Are you tired of hearing that yet? It seems like a lot of the teams that are outside of the playoffs right now are using that as their slogan. The reality is, the Blues were the exception to the rule.

So, don’t be surprised if the Kings don’t go from the Western Conference basement to a playoff spot this season. Los Angeles is in the middle of a rebuild that will take some time. They have good core pieces like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, but there’s too many elements missing around them.

The Kings currently own a 17-23-4 record, which is fourth-worst in the league. General manager Rob Blake will have some tough decisions to make this season, but deciding whether or not to be a seller at the trade deadline isn’t one of them.

Blake will have to find a way to unload some of the veterans he has on the team so that he can accumulate draft picks and prospects to help with the rebuild.

Who could be on the move?

Tyler Toffoli – Forward

Toffoli is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so he’ll be an intriguing rental for one of the contenders out there. The 27-year-old has 11 goals and 24 points in 43 games. He’s surpassed the 20-goal mark three different times and he scored 30 goals once. There are plenty of teams that need secondary scoring and that’s exactly what Toffoli would provide.

Trevor Lewis – Forward

Lewis isn’t as big of a name as Toffoli, but he could be a useful depth forward for a team looking to improve their bottom two lines. The 33-year-old has one goal and six points in 31 games this season. His advanced stats are particularly interesting. When he’s on the ice, the Kings control 53.89 percent of the shot attempts, 55 percent of the expected goals for and 51.69 percent of the high-danger scoring chances. Lewis can also play any of the three forward positions. He’s going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Kyle Clifford – Forward

Like Toffoli and Lewis, Clifford is also going to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. The 28-year-old has that coveted size that a lot of teams are looking for a depth forward. Clifford has five goals and 12 points in 43 games this season. When he’s on the ice, the Kings have 56.24 percent of the shot share, 57.2 percent of the XGF% and 57.59 percent of the high danger scoring chances.

Derek Forbort – Defense

Forbort made his regular-season debut on Monday night. He missed an extended period of time with a back injury, but he appears to be healthy. If he can stay on the ice, the pending unrestricted free agent will be able to build up some value on the trade market. The 27-year-old has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game over the last three seasons. A contender will roll the dice on Forbort if he’s healthy.

Alec Martinez – Defense

Martinez wouldn’t be a pure rental. He has this year and next year remaining on his contract at a reasonable cap hit of $4 million. The 32-year-old missed a good chunk of the season with a wrist injury, but he’s been back for two games now. He’s averaged over 21 minutes of ice time since the 2015-16 season. Martinez’s track record and his reasonable salary make him an interesting pick up for any team looking to improve their back end.

Kathryn Tappen will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Patrick Sharp and Keith Jones and Bob McKenzie. Chris Cuthbert will handle play-by-play duties alongside analyst Jim Fox from STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Tonight on NBCSN: No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha hosts No. 7 North Dakota

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Two top coaches have their programs neck-and-neck in the WCHA race.

No. 14 Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (16-10-2) vs. No. 7 University of North Dakota (14-8-6) — 8:30 p.m. ET

The battle to earn the top spot in the WCHA is raging on and tonight’s game features two teams trying to keep pace with St. Cloud State to earn the crown. For homestanding Nebraska-Omaha, it’s been a good run of late. They’ve won five of their last eight and only have losses to Michigan Tech and Denver in that span.

We’ve seen UNO a couple times this season and we’ve seen all shades of what they can do. From steamrolling the likes of Army and Colorado College, losing a nailbiter to Notre Dame and getting blown away by Denver. They’ve been tough in conference but handling North Dakota presents one huge line of issues for coach Dean Blais’ team to contend with.

For the former Fighting Sioux, they have a dynamic duo of scorers in Danny Kristo and Corban Knight (pictured) for the UNO defense to contend with. They’ve been getting points aplenty over the last couple months, but lately wins have escaped them. In their past eight games, North Dakota is just 2-3-3.  On the upside, they’re 1-0-2 in their last three. Hey, a tie is better than a loss… Right? By the way, North Dakota has 14 NHL-drafted players on their roster. Not a bad job of recruiting there by Dave Hakstol.

NHL prospects to watch

UND has a veritable army of players to keep an eye on. The big two are both seniors in Knight (Florida) and Kristo (Montreal). They’re supported by a few others that you may have heard of. Freshman forward and Team USA WJC gold medalist Rocco Grimaldi (Florida) and sophomore forward Mark MacMillan (Montreal) have provided them with a solid secondary attack. There’s a lot to work with here for North Dakota including undrafted guys like senior forward Carter Rowney and junior goalie Clarke Saunders.

Others: Dillon Simpson (JR – D – Edmonton), Joe Gleason (SR – D – Chicago), Derek Forbort (JR – D – Los Angeles), Nick Mattson (SO – D – Chicago), Jordan Schmaltz (FR – D – St. Louis), Michael Parks (SO – F – Philadelphia), Brendan O’Donnell (SO – F – Tampa Bay), Andrew MacWilliam (SR – D – Toronto), Derek Rodwell (JR – F – New Jersey), Zane Gothberg (G – FR – Boston)

UNO’s top players are more or less undrafted players. Senior forward Ryan Walters leads the team in points and is a likely free agent signing after his season is over. Sophomore forward Josh Archibald (Pittsburgh) is Walters’ go-to guy on the attack. Sophomore Dominic Zombo and junior Matt White follow up as other undrafted players leading the charge.

Others: Bryce Aneloski (SR – D – Ottawa), Brent Gwidt (SR – F – Washington), Nick Seeler (FR – D – Minnesota), Tanner Lane (FR – F – Winnipeg), Brian Cooper (FR – D – Anaheim)

(Picture: UND Sports)