After a brief Stanley Cup hangover, the Los Angeles Kings are back on their feet. Much of that improvement can be credited to an emerging young defenseman.
And to everyone's surprise, that player is not named Drew Doughty.
While Doughty, taken on average in the seventh round of Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey drafts, has stumbled out of the gate with no goals, four assists and a minus-10 rating through 11 games, Slava Voynov has emerged as the team's most productive player on the blue line.
After being held without a point in Los Angeles' first four games, Voynov has accumulated two goals and four assists over his last seven games. He currently leads all Kings' defensemen with two goals, six points and a plus-7 rating.
In Monday's 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues, the 23-year-old logged a season-high 26:06 of ice time, finishing with a plus-3 rating and two helpers. For a team that has struggled immensely at times on the offensive end, Voynov's pair of assists were instrumental in helping the Kings both set the tone early and finish off the Blues in the third period.
The only first-period goal by either team came when Voynov executed a perfect centering feed in transition that resulted in Jeff Carter's first of two tallies on the day. Then, in the third, the defenseman showed poise on a broken play, hitting Jarrett Stoll for a high-percentage shot in the slot to ice the game.
Selected on average in the 16th round of fantasy drafts, Voynov is still only owned in 21 percent of Yahoo! leagues. While he has only seen 2:15 of power-play ice time per game so far, expect that number to rise if Doughty continues to struggle. The Kings have an array of scoring options in the fold, but will continue to rely on defensemen like Doughty and Voynov to create offensive chances.
Voynov was not a factor last postseason in terms of point production (three in 20 games), but in the absence of Willie Mitchell (knee) and Matt Greene (back) early on this season, he's shown maturity beyond his years. Considering he was taken so late in fantasy drafts (average 166th overall pick), he could even emerge as a keeper selection in deep leagues by season's end if he keeps this up.
He's earned 23-plus minutes of ice time per game in five of his last six outings, and could become an even more valuable fantasy asset if he continues to help the Kings' offense click. So if you're looking for depth on your fantasy roster, Voynov has proven to this point that he carries the potential to make a significant impact.
Follow Pete Jensen on Twitter: @NHLJensen
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