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5 Questions: Los Angeles Kings

Development of young players, Marian Gaborik's injury among concerns

by Curtis Zupke / NHL.com Correspondent

An NHL season is filled with twists and turns for each of the League's 30 teams. Here are five of the major questions that could define the 2016-17 season for the Los Angeles Kings:

 

How will they make up for the loss of Marian Gaborik?

Gaborik will be re-evaluated in three weeks after injuring his right foot playing for Team Europe in the semifinal of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 on Sept. 25, Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter said Wednesday. The Kings, who initially said the 34-year-old forward would miss eight weeks, were looking for a big season from Gaborik, who hasn't played more than 69 games in a season since 2011-12. They will have to count on their prospects to make up the scoring in his absence. They also will have to find someone else to play beside Anze Kopitar. That could be unrestricted free agent signing Teddy Purcell or Michael Mersch, 24, one of their better prospects. Adrian Kempe, 20, the 29th pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, likely will be with the Kings at some point if he doesn't make the opening night roster after performing well with Ontario of the American Hockey League last season, his first in North America. 

 

Will Sutter have faith in his younger players?

The Kings will rely on a group of forwards that includes Mersch, Kempe, Nick Shore, Andy Andreoff and Nic Dowd to fill bottom-six roles. This will require some patience from a coach not known for a long leash with young players. The upside is this group will have excellent leadership to look to in the locker room, and most have significant professional experience in the AHL.

Video: LAK@ARI: Shore nets loose puck after collision

 

Will Jeff Zatkoff fill the backup goaltender role?

This is one of the more difficult jobs in the League because starter Jonathan Quick plays a lot. He plays so much that the backup last season, Jhonas Enroth, complained about appearing in 16 games. Zatkoff, selected by the Kings in the third round (No. 74) of the 2006 draft, is back with them after proving capable in a backup role with the Pittsburgh Penguins during their Stanley Cup run. Zatkoff said a big reason he chose to sign with the Kings as an unrestricted free agent was the chance to work again with Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford.

 

Who will fill out the defense?

The Kings are set with Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez as their top three defensemen. Beyond them is a mix of veterans, including Tom Gilbert, Rob Scuderi, Matt Greene, Brayden McNabb and Zach Trotman, along with prospects Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel. Gravel and Forbort could shuttle frequently between Los Angeles and Ontario. Greene last played Oct. 13, 2015, and had shoulder surgery last December. Gilbert had surgery on his left knee in February, and Scuderi is 37.

Video: TBL@LAK: McNabb buries wrist shot off the faceoff

 

How high is Tyler Toffoli's ceiling?

Toffoli's 31 goals led the Kings last season, but he will be relied on more with the injury to Gaborik and loss of Milan Lucic in free agency. Toffoli is one of the Kings' better players along the boards and always seems to be around the puck at the right time. But he'll be watched more closely by opponents now that they don't have to account for Lucic. Toffoli was reunited with center Jeff Carter and left wing Tanner Pearson on "That '70s Line" for much of the preseason.

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