Player evaluation: King
This season: 27 games, 5 goals, 9 assists, plus-3 rating.
The good: Expectations were low when the Kings called up King from the AHL on Feb. 10. King had played six games with the Kings the previous season and, frankly, didn’t show much, not unexpected for a player getting his first taste of the NHL. But reports on King from Manchester had been positive early in the season, and he quickly showed why. King looked far more comfortable, with the puck and away from it. He used his size well, had good instincts for loose pucks and settled nicely into a third-line role. King even made a huge impact in the playoffs, as he scored four goals in the Western Conference Finals.
The bad: King’s game did taper off a bit at times, so he’s going to have to prove he can be strong and consistent for a full 82-game season in the NHL. Also, it’s not so much “bad’’ as a question of, where is King’s ceiling? His single-season high in the AHL was 24 goals. Projecting out last season’s NHL numbers to a full season would give King 17-18 goals. The Kings would certainly take that from a third-line winger who also brings physical play, but is King really an 18-goal scorer in the NHL? King also needs to be mindful of using his size and strength the proper way, as to not take bad, unnecessary penalties.
Going forward: It will be interesting to see where King fits into the left-wing mix, assuming the Kings keep Dustin Brown on the left side and assuming Simon Gagne is healthy. Dustin Penner is also in the mix. Is it possible that King would slot into a fourth-line role, next to Colin Fraser and opposite Jordan Nolan? Or did the Kings like the chemistry between King, Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis so much that they won’t break up the line? Again, King has to show that he can be a regular NHL player for a full season, but he certainly made a great impression in 2011-12 and was one of the surprise standouts of the season.