Nearing the crucial games that will be documented as the “playoff-stretch”, I’m taking a look at each player on the Kings roster and evaluating them with a grade on their performance thus far. A roster that has worked together to post a 37-20-4 record (78 points) at 5th place in the Western Conference has to be doing something right, Right? Which players have contributed most? Which players have disappointed? In Part 3 of a 3-Part series, we’ll take a look at the forwards of the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have tallied 185 goals so far, which ranks them 4th in the Western Conference and 6th in the NHL. The production from this offense has been a big contributor to the Kings success this season.
DUSTIN BROWN #23
SYNOPSIS: Dustin Brown has had a solid season for the Kings, bringing his high intensity, physical play whenever he’s on the ice. Brown has been impressive on the forecheck, utilizing his speed and strength to create offensive zone posession. With 15 goals and 27 assists, Brown has been a key contributor, but there are still some flaws. I like to see Brown make the dump & chase work for the Kings with his heavy pressure down low, but often find myself frustrated when he enters the zone with the puck. Too often Brown is fancy with the puck with his through the legs deke, and still has an issue with missing the net with his shots. Bottom Line: You can always count on Brown to make a presence physically, but he’s had issues with the puck. A couple of scoring droughts have lowered Brown’s point totals, but his leadership on and off the ice is crucial to the team.
ALEXANDER FROLOV #24
SYNOPSIS: I’ve been frustrated with Frolov’s play all season, which I see as having a lack of heart and intensity. Whether it’s giving up on the back-check, or skating circles without the puck, Frolov has been a huge disappointment. The guy has skill, and his 13 goals and 27 assists is sub-par for a player with his capability. Frolov has made plenty of bad decisions, namely his constant wrap-arounds, and has shown his inability to occupy the front of the net. Bottom Line: Frolov has been the center of trade rumors this year, and there’s still a chance he could be dealt after the Olympic break. Frolov, even with his lackluster style of play, has the ability to create points for the Kings as they stride toward the playoffs.
MICHAL HANDZUS #26
SYNOPSIS: Handzus, with 33 points this season, has been a solid contributor up front for the Kings. Not a flashy forward, but extremely versatile. Handzus has shown he is capable of winning face-offs, scoring from the top of the circles, and creating traffic in front of the net. #26 is a veteran who can center a wide variety of wingers. Handzus’ smart play has worked well with the various line combinations Terry Murray has drawn up. Bottom Line: An essential part of the Kings offense, Handzus rarely makes costly mistakes. Whether it’s his puck control down low, his body in front of the net, or his shot selection from the top of the circles, his intelligence on the ice meshes well with his line-mates.
RAITIS IVANANS #41
SYNOPSIS: Ivanans is on the roster for one reason; To be the enforcer. If there’s a player who’s going to drop the gloves, look to Raitis. Even though it’s not his function on the ice, Ivanans has yet to record a point, which is troubling at 54 games played. My main problem with his play is the stupid retaliation I’ve seen from him this season. I have no problem with him dancing when necessary, but it’s been a recurring instance where Ivanans takes a revenge penalty that hurts the team. Bottom Line: Ivanans has a spot on the roster to have the back of his skilled teammates. #41 needs to be a little smarter when choosing to stick up for his team, and make sure he isn’t a burden to their success.
ANZE KOPITAR #11
SYNOPSIS: Kopitar had a stunning start to the season, even leading the NHL in points for a period of time. The hot start was quickly crushed with a lengthy stretch of games where Kopitar failed to produce. However, he regrouped to again become an offensive force for the Kings. I believe his slump was in part to pushing too hard. #11 never stopped working, but just couldn’t catch a break. He never left his game, but over-did it at times. Once he was able to settle down, and had healthy surroundings, he’s become the vastly improved player we saw at the start of the season. Bottom Line: Kopitar’s skill has been coupled with his revamped strength this season to create a player who is on the verge of being a superstar. A long stretch into the playoffs will only help Kopitar’s process of maturing and growing into an elite NHL player.
OSCAR MOLLER #9
SYNOPSIS: I, for one, didn’t expect much out of the young Swede this season. I figured Moller would get shut-down because of his size. Yes, I judged, but you can’t deny that was the story last season. Now, he hasn’t been putting up the points, but he’s not afraid to go into corners and fight for the puck. I like to relate him to a mosquito. Small, but extremely bothersome. Moller uses his speed to disrupt the opposition. Does he always win the battles? No. But he distracts the flow of his counterparts. Bottom Line: Moller is annoying to the opposition. He doesn’t scare them, he bothers them. This is what allows him to create turnovers down-low utilizing his small stature and quick feet.
TEDDY PURCELL #54
SYNOPSIS: Late decisions, and bad ones. That can describe Purcell’s season so far. Teddy had a semi-promising ending to last season, but has completely flopped this year. 3 goals and 3 assist through 41 games, Purcell has been awful. There hasn’t been one positive to his play. At times he looks lost, and at other times he just looks bad. Bad passes, bad shot selection, poor puck control down-low, I’ll stop now. Bottom Line: I’ve just about given up hope with Purcell. Will he be a factor down the stretch? I don’t think so. A part of me wants to have some faith in him, but there’s been no reason to build it.
BRAD RICHARDSON #15
SYNOPSIS: Boy, talk about an impressive player coming from nowhere. Richardson, who was pointless for a long stretch at the start of the season, began to blossom into a key forward. The guy just works hard. Always hard on the forecheck and backcheck, Richardson works for his points. He’s provided a spark to the offense with his work ethic, and has earned every single one of his 21 points. Bottom Line: A young winger like Richardson who takes pride in hustle, he can create big plays for the Kings down the line. No question he’ll be a factor in plenty of games, and his intensity will be a great fit come playoff time.
WAYNE SIMMONDS #17
SYNOPSIS: There’s no question Simmonds play has led him to become a fan favorite. A forward who mixes in a bit of everything when on the ice, he has posted 35 points. Simmonds physical play on the forecheck and ability to fight make him even more of a threat. His speed allows him to beat the opposition to the puck. His long, fluid stride helps as well. Bottom Line: In only his second season, Simmonds has been a huge surprise. A player who is still developing, only expect to get more results from Simmonds for the rest of the season and beyond.
RYAN SMYTH #94
SYNOPSIS: Smyth is hands-down the best off-season acquisition for the Kings. He’s had such a big impact on the team both on and off of the ice. Smyth has managed to tally 19 goals and 19 assists even being out for over a month. His presence in front of the net is a key factor on the PP. Knowing where to be on the ice at all times, Smyth makes his line-mates better. He gives his teammates confidence when putting the puck on net or down low, knowing Smyth will be scrapping for possession or a deflection. Bottom Line: There’s no doubt Smyth will be an important factor down the stretch. Not only is his play crucial to the team, but his experience as well. Smyth went to the Stanley Cup Finals with Edmonton in 2006.
SYNOPSIS: Stoll has fought back from numerous injuries this season to put together a solid overall performance. With 12 goals and 23 assists, Stoll has backed up his success in the face-off circle with production in the offensive zone. A key part of the PP, Stoll moves to the blue-line because of his shot. You have to be impressed with the embattled forward fighting through injuries and still bringing a strong performance to the ice. Bottom Line: Stoll’s biggest contributions to the team will be face-offs in the O-Zone and to continue to pose a threat from the blue-line on the PP.