Tough calls on rookies - LA Kings Insider

Following yesterday’s poll results — Brayden Schenn pulled ahead, and Thomas Hickey led throughout — it seemed possibly pertinent to discuss roster dynamics a bit. I saw more than a couple comments imploring the Kings to keep both Schenn and Andrei Loktionov and/or both Hickey and Jake Muzzin. For a handful of reasons, most likely that’s just not plausible this season.

Terry Murray indicated today that the Kings might start the season with 14 forwards and seven defensemen, meaning two spare forwards and one spare defenseman. Were it simply a matter of identifying the 14 most talented forwards, I don’t think there’s much question that both Loktionov and Schenn would make it. But, almost always, roster dynamics are more complicated than that.

While there is certainly some flexibility, it’s almost standard for teams to carry at least two players (one forward, one defenseman), and perhaps three, who are part-time guys, who can be plugged into the lineup when needed but who, otherwise, regularly sit and watch. It’s a very tough job, both mentally and physically, to stay sharp when playing once a week, at most. And that’s why, under almost no circumstance, would a young player be exposed to that situation.

In saying that both Loktionov and Schenn should make the roster, you’re saying one of four things. One, that one of them should be a 13th forward, just for the sake of being on the roster. Two, that one should be moved to wing and play out of position. Or three, that one of the other veteran centers should be traded, meaning that two of the Kings’ four centers would be rookies, each with one game of NHL experience. If I’m a coach, none of those sound good to me. Same goes on defense. Keeping both Hickey and Muzzin would mean either pairing two rookies with zero experience or making one of them a regular healthy scratch.

I’m fairly confident in saying that any coach would tell you that a young player is better off playing than sitting, even if it means playing at a lower level. This is why players such as Trevor Lewis and Peter Harrold have an edge, because they’re older and more experienced and aren’t going to have their development stunted by regularly being healthy scratches, and they’re mature enough to handle the part-time role.

Would it be possible for a center to switch to wing? Yes, no question, but both Loktionov and Schenn appear to have bright futures at center, and the wisdom of putting them in potentially uncomfortable roles, at an important time in their development, is questionable. To test my instincts on this, I asked Terry Murray if Loktionov’s skills were specifically suited to center, and if that would preclude a move to wing…

MURRAY: “He’s going to be a really good center iceman. He’s a talented guy. Just some of the plays that he was making in the game the other night, they happen as soon as he gets the puck. It’s not getting it, then pivoting, looking and making it. It’s `right now.’ That’s special. The good players do that. They know their options before they receive the puck. That’s why he scores the goal the goal that he scored. It’s that quick play. It’s give-and-go. He’s on the mov. His timing is really good. He’s going to be a very good player.”

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Jake Muzzin

#6 | 6′ 3″ | 216 lb | Age: 27

Born: Feb 21, 1989
Birthplace: Woodstock, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Left


Muzzin was drafted in 2007 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, before signing to the Kings in 2010. He has since become the first Woodstock, Ontario professional athlete to win a major sports trophy.

Anze Kopitar

#11 | 6′ 3″ | 224 lb | Age: 29

Born: August 24, 1987
Birthplace: Jesenice, SVN
Position: C
Handedness: Left


As the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, and following the 2015–16 season, was named the Kings’ captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016.

Drew Doughty

#8 | 6′ 1″ | 195 lb | Age: 26

Born: December 8, 1989
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Right


Bio: Doughty is a Canadian defenceman who was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 Draft. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian national team, and a Norris Trophy finalist.

Tyler Toffoli

#73 | 6′ 1″ | 200 lb | Age: 24

Born: April 24, 1992
Birthplace: Scarborough, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right


Toffoli is a Canadian professional ice hockey forward, drafted by the Kings in the second round of the 2010 Draft. Toffoli scored his first career NHL goal in his second game in a 4–0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2013. He was also named the 2012–13 AHL All-Rookie Team.

Jeff Carter

#77 | 6′ 4″ | 215 lb | Age: 31

Born: January 1, 1985
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right


Carter began his hockey career playing in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada before joining the AHL and playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was then traded to the Colombus Blue jackets before joining the LA Kings in 2012, where he has since won two Stanley Cups with the Kings.

Jonathan Quick

#32 | 6′ 1″ | 218 lb | Age: 30

Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Milford, CT, USA
Position: G
Handedness: Left


Bio: Quick is the current goaltender for the LA Kings and was selected by Los Angeles at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Previously, Quick was a silver medalist with USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings, along with being the most recent goaltender to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.