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Kings D-Corps Starting to Take Shape



Drew Doughty & Pheonix Copley

With the Los Angeles Kings re-signing defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov to a two-year deal on Wednesday, they took another step towards shaping their roster for next season.

They answered most, but not all, of their questions on the backend.

The top four is solidified and the team can be confident in that group heading into next season.

Now they just have to figure out their third pair.

Top Pair: Mikey Anderson-Drew Doughty:

The status of the Kings’ top pair was never in question.

Everyone knows it will be Mikey Anderson-Drew Doughty anchoring the team’s blue line again next season. And that stability is a good thing.

Doughty’s talked a lot in the past about how nice it is to have a settled partner again and the results speak for themself.

With Anderson and Doughty on the ice, the Kings outscored their opponents 53-45, a 52.35% Corsi for percentage and had 254 high-danger scoring chances for to 233 against.

Simply put, with those two on the ice the Kings carried the majority of play.

Those numbers are already impressive on their own. But when you factor in that pairing playing almost exclusively against the opposition’s best players, they become even more impressive.

Anderson and Doughty have formed one of the more formidable, and consistent, top pairs in the league.

And with Anderson signing an eight-year extension last season, we can expect to see a lot of that pair moving forward.

Second Pair: Vladislav Gavrikov-Matt Roy:

The Kings’ second pair was a source of controversy all season with Sean Durzi playing his off-side on a pair that was heavily outscored last season. However, the addition of Gavrikov at the deadline turned things around.

Yes, it’s a small sample size and I don’t expect them to repeat that level of success next season. But the numbers are incredible for the Gavrikov-Matt Roy pairing.

They outscored opponents 12-3, finished with a 57.73% Corsi for percentage and 71 high-danger chances to the opponent’s 33. Absolutely dominant numbers.

And despite the team’s lack of success in the playoffs, that pairing was still excellent. The Kings outscored the Edmonton Oilers 6-3 with them on the ice, outshot and out-chanced them too.

It’s that playoff success that makes me think this solid play is repeatable next season. From a number’s perspective, they were the Kings’ best pairing in the postseason.

Both are solid defenders with size, something the Kings’ defense group lacks, and Gavrikov showed off a bit of offensive skill that wasn’t expected.

Third Pair:

The third pair is where things get interesting. There are five players fighting for two spots here without much separating them.

Durzi, Jordan Spence, Brandt Clarke, Tobias Bjornfot and Jacob Moverare will all come into camp hoping to win a spot on that pair.

Moverare’s chances of earning a spot are low, but not impossible given his handedness and skillset.

The real fight is between the other four players. Bjornfot, Clarke, Durzi and Spence are all NHL-quality defensemen and at least one of them will start next season either in the AHL or on another team.

Durzi’s versatility to play on either side helps him a bit. But I don’t think Durzi on the left side of the third pair should be considered an option. Not because he’s bad on the left side, but because he would not compliment either potential partner in that spot.

A third pair of Durzi-Spence/Clarke would be a disaster. A third pair that’s undersized with defensive issues and a tendency to turn the puck over is a recipe for disaster.

You also have to take into account waiver eligibility. Both Clarke and Spence are waiver-exempt, but Spence shouldn’t spend another season in the AHL. He’s proven all he can at that level and playing him there again would stagnate his development.

If he loses his spot he should be moved. This also makes Clarke a prime candidate to start in the AHL. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing for him.

It will give him a chance to play top-pair minutes and quarterback a top power-play unit at the pro level. Allowing him to adjust to pro speed, and more importantly, the physicality.

That leaves Durzi, Bjornfot and Spence fighting for two spots. And given my above statement about playing Durzi on the left, I’d say it really just leaves Durzi and Spence fighting for the RD3 spot.

Durzi caught a lot of heat last season, but he’s still a solid NHL defenseman with offensive upside and I think heading into camp that’s his spot to lose. But I also think Spence is a better player with a higher ceiling, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him win out.

There’s also the added benefit that Bjornfot and Spence spent a lot of time as a pair in Ontario last season, so there’s built-in chemistry there.

Then that leaves the question of, what to do with Durzi? He’d be the seventh defenseman in this set-up making $1.7 million and deteriorating in value.

If that’s how things shake out, Durzi should be moved. He still has value and could fetch the Kings a good price on the market. Depending on the Kings’ faith in Spence, I think looking to trade Durzi at the draft makes sense.

Moving back into the first round or grabbing a high second-round pick would be a solid addition for the Kings. It would also free up cap space and would address the logjam on the right side.

Those are some big ifs though, and the Kings have shown a lot of faith in Durzi over the last year so I’m not sure that scenario is likely.

Either way, a Bjornfot-Spence pairing third-pair makes the most sense heading into next season. Of course, that could change if the Kings trade for a big left-shot defenseman to play alongside Spence/Durzi.

But given the current roster that pairing makes the most sense.

Ideal D-Corps:

Mikey Anderson-Drew Doughty

Vladislav Gavrikov-Matt Roy

Tobias Bjornfot-Jordan Spence

Jacob Moverare

I would have some concerns with that bottom pair, especially in the playoffs when the game becomes more physical. But with some development from Bjornfot and Spence, I think they’d be fine.

The top four looks rock solid and is a good foundation to build upon. And with the potential addition of Clarke at some point, they could inject top-end talent during the season.

I’m not sure if that’s a cup-winning D-corps, but that’s a top-half of the league D-corps in my eyes.

If the Kings can figure out their goaltending situation, I think they’ll have no problems keeping pucks out of their net next season.

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