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Team Reset

Kings look to Kovalchuk to boost offense

35-year-old forward key offseason addition in return to NHL

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Los Angeles Kings:

The Los Angeles Kings made a big offseason splash by adding offense without giving up anyone.

Forward Ilya Kovalchuk is back in the NHL. The two-time 52-goal scorer with the Atlanta Thrashers (2005-06, 2007-08) has scored at least 30 nine times in the NHL and at least 40 six times, including the 41 that tied Rick Nash and Jarome Iginla for the NHL lead in 2003-04.

"The most important thing -- when I met with (president) Luc [Robitaille] and (general manager) Rob [Blake] and we had a great talk -- is that the team is really good with a great core of guys who have already won," Kovalchuk said. "They know how to win and that is my goal, to win the Cup. I want to help the team be better and try to accomplish that goal."

 

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The Kings, Stanley Cup champions in 2012 and 2014, have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs twice and failed to advance beyond the Western Conference First Round twice since that second championship. They went 45-29-8 last season to clinch the first wild card into the playoffs from the West but were swept by the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference First Round.

"We're not here to rebuild," said defenseman Drew Doughty, who signed an eight-year, $88 million contract extension July 1. "We're going to try to continue to move pieces around and have good draft picks, develop our prospects, and make a better team."

Here is what the Kings look like today:

 

Key arrivals

Ilya Kovalchuk, F: The 35-year-old signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract July 1 after five seasons with SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League. Kovalchuk has 816 points (417 goals, 399 assists) in 816 NHL games.

Video: Discussing how Kovalchuk will fit in with the Kings

 

Key departures

Tobias Rieder, F: He signed a one-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers on July 1 after he had six points (four goals, two assists) in 20 regular-season games but no points in four playoff games after the Kings acquired him in a trade from the Arizona Coyotes on Feb. 21. … Andy Andreoff, F: Traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning for goalie Peter Budaj on June 13, he had nine points (three goals, six assists) in 45 games last season. … Christian Folin, D: He signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Flyers on July 5 after finishing with 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 65 games in 2017-18, his only season with the Kings.

 

On the cusp

Gabriel Vilardi, F: The No. 11 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft turns 19 on Aug. 16 and will get every opportunity to make the Kings out of training camp. Vilardi, who signed a three-year contract March 1, had 58 points (22 goals, 36 assists) in 32 games for Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League after missing the first half of 2017-18 with an injury. … Jack Campbell, G: The No. 11 pick by the Dallas Stars in the 2010 NHL Draft took over as the backup behind Jonathan Quick after Darcy Kuemper was traded to Arizona on Feb. 21. Campbell, 26, went 2-0-2 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. … Jonny Brodzinski, F: A fifth-round pick (No. 148) by the Kings in the 2013 NHL Draft, Brodzinski, 25, had six points (four goals, two assists) in 35 games for Los Angeles and 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 29 games with Ontario of the American Hockey League last season. 

Video: LAK@ANA: Campbell sticks out a leg to deny Wagner

 

What they still need

More offense after scoring three goals in the series against the Golden Knights. The Kings were 16th in the NHL in scoring in 2017-18 (2.89 goals per game) and 22nd the past four seasons (2.67). Three players scored more than 16 goals last season (Anze Kopitar, 35; Dustin Brown, 28; Tyler Toffoli, 24).

 

Fantasy focus

Kovalchuk should improve the Kings power play (20.4 percent, T-17th). In Kovalchuk's most recent NHL season with the New Jersey Devils in 2012-13, he led all skaters with 5:28 per game on the power play, often playing the entire two minutes. He brings an elite NHL scoring pedigree to the Kings' top six, but there are concerns about his skating ability, age and five-season absence from the NHL, which has become younger and faster during that span. Still, Kopitar had 92 points (35 goals, 57 assists) on a line with Brown and Alex Iafallo, and he could do even more with a wing of Kovalchuk's caliber. That's enough of a reason to reach for the latter in the fifth round of a 12-team fantasy draft. Kovalchuk should either go right ahead or behind Stars right wing Alexander Radulov because it's fair to expect 65-70 points from Los Angeles' top wing. -- Pete Jensen

 

Projected lineup

Ilya Kovalchuk -- Anze Kopitar -- Dustin Brown

Tanner Pearson -- Jeff Carter -- Tyler Toffoli

Alex Iafallo -- Adrian Kempe -- Gabriel Vilardi

Kyle Clifford -- Michael Amadio -- Trevor Lewis

Derek Forbort -- Drew Doughty

Jake Muzzin -- Alec Martinez

Dion Phaneuf -- Paul LaDue

Jonathan Quick

Jack Campbell

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