The time between development camp and training camp always feels like a dead zone for hockey. Most teams have the bulk of their business done and it’s now a waiting game for hockey to return.
Fortunately for Los Angeles Kings fans, general manager Rob Blake made some big moves this summer that gives them endless debates while they wait for camp to start.
The Pierre-Luc Dubois trade is the big talking point. How does he fit into the roster? Can he become a more mature and consistent player, etc.?
However, these moves have a big impact outside of just bringing in a single player. It opens up roster spots for some players and gives a new linemate to others.
A few players will benefit massively from these moves and could be set up for career years now.
Top 3 Kings Who Benefit Most:
1. Arthur Kaliyev:
Arthur Kaliyev has bided his time and grinded away on the fourth line over the last two seasons and now he’s staring down a massive opportunity to establish himself in the top nine.
He’s a natural replacement for Gabe Vilardi on the third line and should see significant power play time on the second unit again.
We still don’t know what the line combinations will look like next season. However, we can guess that Kaliyev plays with either Dubois or Phil Danault and I’m banking on Danault right now.
He would fit nicely on a third line with Danault and Trevor Moore. Two hardworking players who excel defensively and can get the puck to Kaliyev in goal-scoring areas.
With Moore and Danault grinding in the corners, Kaliyev can drift into open space and take full advantage of his shot.
He’s never had an extended opportunity like this in the NHL and next season is set up to be a breakout one for Kaliyev.
He still needs to put the work in. His skating is still a problem, especially after his injury last season, and he could afford a bit more muscle on him.
But the organization and coaching staff still believe in Kaliyev and feel he can be a real contributor for this team.
If he plays on a line with Danault and Moore and continues to feast on the power play, 20 goals seems like a realistic target for Kaliyev.
Kevin Fiala features here on the assumption that he plays alongside Dubois on the second line. Fiala got an extended look next season with Anze Kopitar but things never really clicked there, meaning he spent a lot of time on Blake Lizotte’s wing.
While Lizotte is a solid, hardworking forward, Dubois is a big upgrade for Fiala.
Fiala’s never really played with an elite player on his line, outside of the time he spent with Kopitar last season, and while Dubois isn’t quite elite, he’s close to it. It’s not a stretch to say that Dubois would be the best linemate Fiala’s had for a full season.
Of course, there are concerns that Fiala and Dubois won’t gel in the same way Fiala and Kopitar didn’t. However, I wouldn’t be too worried about that.
Dubois isn’t a puck-dominant player in the way Kopitar is and can mold his game around Fiala. Dubois would be happy to let Fiala drive play while he grinds away in the corners and deposits on the elite playmaking of Fiala.
He was a point-per-game player last season and he can break beyond that to become a truly elite offensive talent with Dubois. If those two click, 90 points for Fiala isn’t out of the question. It could also lead to a 30+ goal season for Dubois.
The Kings need these two to click. They’re the second and third highest-paid forwards on the team and have to take some of the burden off Kopitar’s shoulders.
Re-signing Vladislav Gavrikov is a massive boost for his partner Matt Roy. These two formed one of the best pairings in hockey down the stretch and statistically were the Kings’ best pairing in the postseason.
This will be the best partner Roy’s had in recent years. Over the last three seasons, his most frequent partners have been, Sean Durzi, Olli Maatta and Tobias Bjornfot. All decent players in their own ways, but Gavrikov is a noticeable upgrade.
Gavrikov and Roy fit Todd McLellan’s system well and found instant chemistry last season. If Gavrikov can continue to provide the offense he found down the stretch, and Roy can come close to his nine goals and 26 points from last season, the Kings are in great shape.
If McLellan is serious about reducing Drew Doughty’s ice time next season, the second pair will be relied on heavily to pick up the slack and now they’re capable of doing that.
This is the first time Roy’s had a consistent partner of equal quality and it’s going to be huge for him.