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The Kings New, Younger Blueline

While the LA Kings season may not have gone as planned, their defensive success provides hope for future seasons

by Jesse Cohen @KingsMenPodcast / LAKings.com

When the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012, Drew Doughty was only 22 years old and Alec Martinez was just a month shy of his 25th birthday. The following season, 2012-13, they added another 23 year old, Jake Muzzin, to the defensive corps.

In the subsequent years, injuries, retirement and contractual issues led to the departure of veteran stalwarts like Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Robyn Regehr.

Players like Christian Ehrhoff and Tom Gilbert have auditioned for the role of "Veteran Blueliner", but as the 2016-17 season nears its end, we find the Kings may already have the perfect veterans.

Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin.

Martinez is the grizzled veteran of the trio at 29 (he'll turn 30 in July). Muzzin just turned 28 in February and Doughty is only three months past his 27th birthday. All three are signed for the next two seasons, and none of them have played for any franchise other than the Kings.

In addition to the Cup winning trio, the Kings feature 26-year-old Brayden McNabb - who, when healthy, has certainly earned a regular spot in the Kings lineup.

Then the question is, who are the new up and comers? Who will be mentored by Doughty the way he was mentored by Sean O'Donnell?

While the 2016-17 season may be a disappointing one, one of the highlights is the progression of the defensive corps. In a season where they were without their starting goalie for 60 games, the Kings have remained the top team in limiting shots on goal (26.0) and are fifth best in goals against (2.46).

This season, the Kings have featured three rookies as part of that defensive corps and all three seem to have a bright future with the team.

DEREK FORBORT - 25 years old

Watch: Youtube Video

A first round pick in 2010, Forbort was one of the few first rounders that had yet to break into the NHL. 72 games later, the Duluth native is skating 20 minutes a night alongside Doughty as part of the Kings top pair.

The 6'4 rookie ranks second among Kings in hits (159) and blocked shots (141). As a pair, Doughty and Forbort rank among the top of the league in suppressing shots, limiting scoring and dominating possession.

KEVIN GRAVEL - 25 years old

Watch: Youtube Video

Taken in the fifth round of the 2010 Draft, Gravel was recalled from Ontario in early November and never looked back.

The 6'4 rookie has played more than 12 minutes of even strength time per game and seen limited time on both the Power Play and the Penalty Kill. While the Kingsford Michigan native has appeared in less than 50 games this season, his 1.5 hits per game and 1.2 blocked shots are impressive given his ice time.

PAUL LADUE - 24 years old

Watch: Youtube Video

A sixth round pick in the 2012 draft, LaDue spent 37 games in Ontario before being recalled to the Kings and making his NHL debut on February 7th.

Though his time with the Kings has been short, he's logged more than 16 minutes a game and seen ample time on the Power Play (1:53). The 6'1 North Dakota native has yet to score an NHL goal, but his possession numbers are strong and he's on pace for a 27-point season.

With Matt Greene still injured, the average age of these 7 Kings defenseman is 26 and half.

Meanwhile in Ontario, Zac Leslie, Alex Lintuniemi, Kurtis McDermid, and Damir Sharypzyanov are still developing and are all under the age of 24. Plus, the Kings prospects, Kale Clague and Jacob Moverare, are developing in the CHL.

Hockey seems to be getting younger every year and finding value in your lineup is crucial. GM Dean Lombardi espoused the importance of "getting better and younger" at the same time.

With that philosophy guiding the way, the Kings blueline should remain stable for a very long time.

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