Jack Campbell

Kings face key stages of rebuild with trade deadline, 2020 NHL Draft

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NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Saturday’s Stadium Series matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings from Falcon Stadium at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

While the Avalanche hope to become true Stanley Cup contenders, the Kings wonder how to reclaim that form.

The next few months are crucial for both teams, only in dramatically different ways. After looking at Colorado’s climb to contention, let’s ponder how the Kings are handling their rebuild.

Kings get off to strong start with rebuild

Experts already rave about the building blocks the Kings have amassed.

The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler (sub required) and The Hockey Writers’ Josh Bell both ranked the Kings’ farm system number one in recent articles. In fact, Wheeler ranked the Kings first with “no hesitation.”

They seem to be combining quantity with quality. Wheeler’s Athletic colleague Corey Pronman placed six Kings prospects in his top 100 rankings (sub required), with Arthur Kaliyev finishing highest at seventh. Five of those six landed in the top 50 of that list, with Samuel Fagemo barely missing at 53.

You can nitpick elements of that pool, as with just about any. But overall, it seems like the Kings are pressing many of the right buttons. So far.

Trade deadline provides opportunities as Kings rebuild

Rob Blake could accelerate this rebuild with deft trades.

To his credit, he was already aggressive in landing a nice haul for Jake Muzzin last season, and once again extracted a solid package from Toronto in the Jack Campbell trade.

Neither Tyler Toffoli nor Alec Martinez boast the same trade value as Muzzin, but maybe the Kings can seize some opportunities anyway? This year’s deadline market seems pretty shallow, so perhaps Blake may take advantage.

Who should stick around?

Looking further down the line, it’s tough to imagine the Kings shaking loose from Jeff Carter or Dustin Brown. Moving Jonathan Quick also sounds unlikely.

(That said, the Kings should pull the trigger if there are suitors, and if Carter and others would comply.)

Ultimately, your optimism may vary regarding the futures for veteran stars Kopitar (32, $10M AAV through 2023-24) and Doughty (30, $11M AAV through 2026-27). Actually, go ahead and take a moment to wince at those contracts. That’s a natural reaction.

There’s only so much the Kings can do about the aging curve, at least since they already signed the extensions. The Kings could at least take steps to be proactive, though, with hopes that Doughty and/or Kopitar can still help out once the prospects (hopefully) bloom.

Right now, Doughty is averaging almost 26 minutes of ice time per game (25:56) while Kopitar is logging almost 21 (20:46). With the Kings far out of contention, I must ask … why would you run them into the ground? Wouldn’t it be wiser to take measures to keep them fresher for 2020-21 and beyond?

That’s where Todd McLellan creates an interesting dialogue. On one hand, there’s evidence that he’s a good or even very good coach, including in Hockey Viz’s breakdowns. That data argues that McLellan positively impacts his teams on both ends, especially lately:

McLellan HockeyViz

The Kings can’t judge their coach based on structure alone, though. McLellan received some criticism for how he handled young players like Jesse Puljujarvi in Edmonton, so Los Angeles must be wary about McLellan’s development impact.

If McLellan can’t be convinced to scale down minutes for the likes of Doughty and Kopitar (at least after the deadline, in particular), then that’s a contextual problem, too.

Kings need some lottery ball luck for next phase of rebuild

Right now, the Kings rank as the worst team in the West, and second worst in the NHL. The Senators could sink below the Kings and grab the second-best lottery odds:

via NHL.com

Shrewd moves propel rebuilds forward, but luck is crucial, too. As excited as people are about their prospects, the Kings’ rebuild could swing based on getting the chance to draft Alexis Lafreniere, landing another blue-chipper like Quinton Byfield, or slipping just out of the truly elite range.

[Mock Draft for 2020; prospect rankings heading into the season]

Up to this point, the Kings are doing a good job “making their own luck.” Even so, the trade deadline and 2020 NHL Draft represent the biggest make-or-break moments of all.

Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk, and Brian Boucher will call the matchup. On-site studio coverage at Air Force Academy will feature Kathryn Tappen hosting alongside analyst Patrick Sharp and reporter Rutledge Wood.

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.

All eyes on Campbell with Andersen out for Maple Leafs

Maple Leafs
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So here’s the situation for the Toronto Maple Leafs this weekend:

  • Starting goalie Frederik Andersen will not play on Friday or Saturday as he continues to deal with a neck injury. He is skating, he is probably not far away from returning, but he is not going to be in the lineup for their games against Anaheim (Friday) or Montreal (Saturday).
  • After losing back-to-back games to Florida and New York to temporarily fall out of a playoff spot there’s a sense of panic oozing out of Toronto. Even more than there usually is after a loss. It is getting intense up there, folks.
  • New backup goalie Jack Campbell, acquired from the Los Angeles Kings almost immediately after the Maple Leafs’ loss in New York on Wednesday, is going to start on Friday, and potentially Saturday as well, as the team desperately tries to find a goalie other than Andersen that can make a save for them.

To say there is already a ton of pressure on Campbell is a definite understatement.

His acquisition from the Kings (along with Kyle Clifford in exchange for Trevor Moore and some draft picks) is already getting more fanfare than your typical backup goalie move because of the team and city he is going to and the situation it is in.

He is not just the new backup goalie.

He is being talked about in the context of potentially having to save their season.

It is at that point that we should point out that while Campbell is a former first-round pick, he is still 28 years old and has only played in 58 NHL games. And never in a situation where he’s been expected to contribute this much to a team with such high expectations. None of this is to say he can not contribute and help. But man, talk about getting thrown right into the deep end of the pool.

The thing is, there is not much hyperbole with anything being said about his new role with the Maple Leafs.

They desperately need him to be good.

Not only as a fill-in for Andersen while he remains out of the lineup in the short-term, but to simply give Andersen an occasional break down the stretch. The Maple Leafs have leaned heavily on Andersen in his three years with the team not only in terms of his workload, but with the way they have played in front of him defensively. They have pretty much ground him down into dust each season by playing him 60-plus games and forcing him to mask their flaws defensively.

By the time the playoffs roll around he’s faced one of the heaviest workloads in the league. Not exactly an ideal situation for a goalie.

At this point there’s little chance of the Maple Leafs dramatically changing their style of play, especially given their roster (nor should they, quite honestly — this is almost how they have to play). But they do need another goalie they can count on to at least give them a chance when Andersen is not available (or needs a night off).

The Maple Leafs have four sets of back-to-backs remaining and multiple stretches where they play as many as four games in six days. Given how tight the playoff race is and how they are pretty much a 50-50 shot to get in at that point, having two goalies they can rely on is a must. It is also something they have simply not had the past two seasons.

Going back to the start of last season the Maple Leafs are 14-23-2 when Andersen does not play, while their backup goalies have managed only an .896 save percentage. That includes Michael Hutchinson‘s performance this season that has been among the worst of any goaltender in the league.

Now it’s Campbell’s turn to try to fill that spot.

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.

Blackhawks suffer crushing OT loss to Bruins

Jake DeBrusk #74 and Charlie McAvoy #73 of the Boston Bruins
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Overtime losses are not easy to swallow on a given night, but for a team trying to climb back into the playoff race, they are devastating.

Charlie McAvoy was rewarded for driving hard to the net and the Boston Bruins defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 in OT. It was the second straight overtime loss for the Blackhawks.

Chicago forward Drake Caggiula thought he netted the game-winning goal with 65 seconds remaining in regulation on a delayed penalty. However, the referees decided that a hand pass took place prior to the goal and waved it off.

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said after the game the referee admitted it was his mistake.

Bruins extend winning streak

While the NHL landscape is constantly changing, Boston has remained a fixture near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. The loss suffered in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final still stings, but the Bruins have done an excellent job putting themselves in a position to return. The Tampa Bay Lightning have regained their form from a season ago, but due to five straight wins and consistently strong play, the Bruins have a seven-point lead in the Atlantic Division.

The Bruins acquired Charlie Coyle in the days leading up to the NHL trade deadline last season and it will be fascinating to see if they can bring in additional reinforcements for the 2020 playoffs. Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers is one of the top rentals available and his style would be a near perfect fit for the style played in Boston. He is extremely quick and can play the heavy game which takes its toll on an opponent during an extended playoff series.

Turning point in Chicago

Self-evaluation is one of the toughest aspects of a front-office job in sports and these two OT losses could shift the strategy in Chicago as the trade deadline approaches.

One area of strength that could fetch a decent return is goaltending. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ acquisition of Jack Campbell would presumably take them out of the running, but several teams could use a quality netminder such as Corey Crawford or Robin Lehner. Both goalies will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.

Toews’ 16 points since the start of 2020 and Patrick Kane’s 12-game point streak earlier this month have masked several flaws facing the Blackhawks this season. Depth has been a major pain point in recent years, and this could be the time for Chicago to collect a few additional assets in order to reload for next season.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Maple Leafs acquire Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford from Kings

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Michael Hutchinson has not been good enough for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season and general manager Kyle Dubas has brought in goaltending help. Shortly after a 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers, Toronto acquired Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for forward Trevor Moore, Columbus’ third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in 2021. Los Angeles will also retain 50 percent of Clifford’s salary for the remainder of the season.

NHL insider Bob McKenzie first mentioned the possibility of the trade scenario on NHL Live prior to Wednesday Night Hockey. McKenzie brought up Dubas’ familiarity with Campbell after he orchestrated a blockbuster trade for the goaltender in junior hockey during his tenure with the Soo Greyhounds.

The Frederik Andersen injury was not as severe as originally expected, but his absence only highlighted the necessity for Toronto to bring in another goaltender.

Before the 2019-20 season, Campbell, 28, signed a two-year extension that carries an average annual value of $1.65 million which will kick in next season.

According to Pierre LeBrun, the conditions on the draft pick in 2021 have to do with the number of wins Campbell records and whether or not Clifford re-signs with Toronto following the season.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

The Buzzer: Pastrnak’s third hat trick; Big games for DeAngelo, Rinne

NHL Scores
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Three Stars

1. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators. An incredible night for Rinne as he stopped 29 shots against the Chicago Blackhawks then scored the first goal of his career. What a way for new coach John Hynes to get his first win with the team. Rinne is just the 12th different goalie in NHL history to score a goal during a game. Read more about it here.

2. Tony DeAngelo, New York Rangers. He continued his breakout season with one of the most productive individual performances by a defenseman in NHL history. He finished with three goals, two assists, seven shots on goal, was a plus-3, and was on the ice for all six of the Rangers’ goals in a 6-3 win over their top rivals, the New Jersey Devils. Read all about his game and just how rare it is right here.

3. David Pastrnak Boston Bruins. The Pastrnak show continues to roll on in Boston. He recorded his third hat trick of the season (and his seventh since the start of the 2018-19 season) to open up a four-goal lead over Auston Matthews in the race for the Rocket Richard Award. He already has 35 goals in his first 45 games this season and is just three goals away from his career high which he set a year ago (in only 66 games). Since the start of the 2018-19 season he has 73 goals in 111 regular season games. That is a 54-goal pace over 82 games. He is currently on pace for 64 goals this season. If he can maintain that it would be the most since Alex Ovechkin scored 65 goals during the 2007-08 season.

Other notable performances on Thursday

  • Nikita Kucherov scored two goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they extended their winning streak to nine games. Read more about it here.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, the Montreal Canadiens have now lost eight games in a row after giving up four consecutive goals to the Edmonton Oilers.
  • Noel Acciari continued his stunning season in Florida with two more goals (he now has 17 in 41 games this season) in a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks.
  • Alexander Steen scored his first two goals of the season as the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues crushed the Buffalo Sabres.
  • Cam Talbot stopped 42 out of 43 shots and Johnny Gaudreau scored his 12th goal of the season to lead the Calgary Flames to a huge win over the Minnesota Wild.
  • Alec Martinez scored his first goal of the season and Jack Campbell stopped 44 out of 46 shots as the Los Angeles Kings stunned the Vegas Golden Knights.
  • Ben Bishop stopped all 27 shots he faced for the Dallas Stars as they shut out the Anaheim Ducks. They have now won six games in a row.
  • In their first game without injured forward Logan Couture the Sharks were able to pick up a 3-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets thanks to goals from Kevin Labanc, Joe Thornton, and Brent Burns. The Blue Jackets have just two regulation losses over their past 16 games. Both of those losses have been against the Sharks.

Highlights of the Night

Of course we have to start with Pekka Rinne’s first career goal.

Look at this set-up by Jonathan Huberdeau as he fakes out the Canucks on this highlight reel play.

It did not get his team a win but Kyle Connor scores a beauty of a goal.

Blooper of the Night

Blue Jackets goalie Elvis Merzlikins made this save lot more difficult than he needed to.

Factoids

  • Anze Kopitar recorded his 600th career assist for the Kings on Thursday night. [NHL PR]
  • With 60 points, Artemi Panarin has more points through the first 43 games of a season than any Rangers player in franchise history, topping the mark previously held by Wayne Gretzky. [NHL PR]
  • Connor McDavid reaches the 70 point mark in just his 46th game of the season for the second year in a row. It is the first time an NHL player has reached the 70-point mark in 46 games or fewer in consecutive seasons since Jaromir Jagr reached it for the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 1998-99 and 1999-00 seasons. [NHL PR]

Scores

Boston Bruins 5, Winnipeg Jets 4
Edmonton Oilers 4, Montreal Canadiens 2
Tampa Bay Lightning 4, Arizona Coyotes 0
Florida Panthers 5, Vancouver Canucks 2
New York Rangers 6, New Jersey Devils 3
St. Louis Blues 5, Buffalo Sabres 1
Nashville Predators 5, Chicago Blackhawks 2
Calgary Flames 2, Minnesota Wild 1
Dallas Stars 3, Anaheim Ducks 0
Los Angeles Kings 5, Vegas Golden Knights 2
San Jose Sharks 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 1

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.