The Los Angeles Kings have made their big moves and set their roster for next season, now, it’s just a waiting game.
With a little over a month, before pre-season begins, it’s a good time to start looking ahead and making predictions.
Today, we’re getting a little bold.
1. Alex Turcotte Establishes Himself as a Full-Time NHLer by January:
There are a lot of people who have written Alex Turcotte off as an NHL prospect for the Kings.
I am not one of those people. In fact, I’m expecting him to establish himself as a full-time contributor for the team this season.
There are a few reasons for this prediction. One, Turcotte is still a very good hockey player. His lack of NHL success is because of injuries and not a lack of talent, and he appears truly healthy for the first time in his professional career.
Every time I’ve heard any AHL player, Ontario Reign or otherwise, speak about Turcotte it’s always positive. Just read what Reign defenseman Cameron Gaunce had to say about Turcotte.
“There’s times when you get, ‘T.J. Tynan is our best player,’ but I think Alex is probably our most important player.”
Gaunce then went on to explain what Turcotte brings to the table.
“A complete game,” Gaunce said. “He’s someone who has the skill. His hands, his ability to beat guys one-on-one, I didn’t realize it was that high. I think the most important part of this game is the speed. He plays the game offensively with the puck, without the puck, defensively, on a defender, in space, he plays the game at a level that most guys in our league just don’t play.”
And that combination of skills Gaunce described is the second big reason I expect Turcotte to establish himself this season. He’s such a versatile player in both position and role.
Whether he’s through the middle or out on the wing, Turcotte provides a responsible, “trusting” game as Todd McLellan often says. And on top of that, he has the high-end skill which saw him drafted 5th overall.
He’ll never be the player the Kings were hoping for with a 5th overall selection, but I see a more skilled version of Alex Iafallo in the future.
Turcotte might make the team out of camp, but I’m expecting him to make the jump sometime around December or January. The Kings will want to see him put together a string of healthy games in the AHL before calling him up.
He’ll also need a spot to open up on the roster, but when an injury occurs, and they always do, I expect Turcotte to take his spot and never give it back.
2. Arthur Kaliyev Scores 30-Goals:
I’ve long held the opinion that Arthur Kaliyev is the best shooter in the King’s organization and one of the best shooters in the world and I think he turns that into production this season.
And the two lines he’s most frequently predicted to play on are good for him.
A lot of people expect him on a line with Kevin Fiala and Pierre Luc-Dubois, an all-offense, no-defense type of line. If the Kings roll with this, I’d expect Kaliyev to fill the net quite a bit next season.
As I’ve discussed, Fiala is one of the league’s best playmakers and if he is consistently teeing Kaliyev up with grade A scoring chances, it will lead to plenty of goals. Dubois being a hard worker in the corners also sets up well for Kaliyev, allowing him to float around a bit in pursuit of chances.
And if he’s instead with Trevor Moore and Phil Danault, that’s also great for him. He won’t have Fiala, but the hardworking, defensively responsible Moore and Danault excel in the areas Kaliyev doesn’t.
Their ability to hound pucks and cause turnovers allows Kaliyev to play to his strengths and focus on scoring.
Players who shoot the puck like Kaliyev with the track record of high-end production he has at lower levels usually figure it out and I think this is the year for Kaliyev.
3. Cam Talbot Has a Resurgent Season & the Kings’ Goaltending Isn’t a Problem:
Is Cam Talbot the star goalie many fans were hoping for? No, but there’s also too much negativity surrounding his signing.
The idea that the Kings have two backups right now in Talbot and Pheonix Copley is off-base.
Yes, it wasn’t a great season for Talbot last year, but he wasn’t terrible either. His -0.2 wins above replacement is around league average as was his goals saved above expected, which sits somewhere around -0.5 to -5.5 depending on which site you use.
These numbers come after three seasons of positive results in all major categories and are impacted by an average defensive team in the Ottawa Senators.
Last season the Kings gave up 183 fewer scoring chances than the Senators and 113 fewer high-danger chances.
With a decrease in chances faced and an overall better team in front of him next season, Talbot’s numbers will bounce back.
He won’t be a Vezina candidate, but he’s going to be a quality goalie for the Kings.