Player evaluation: Voynov
This season: 54 games, 8 goals, 12 assists, plus-12 rating.
The good: Voynov got assigned to the AHL at the end of preseason and again in early February, but not because of any dissatisfaction on the Kings’ end. The Kings simply had a full complement of healthy defensemen at those times. They knew that when they called upon Voynov, he would be ready, and they were correct. For a 22-year-old defenseman with no prior NHL experience, Voynov did a fantastic job. He played big minutes and contributed on the power play. His skating, passing and accurate shot made him a solid complement to Willie Mitchell, and Voynov maintained a high level during the playoffs.
The bad: This is certainly not uncommon for a player with his (lack of) experience, but Voynov can improve his play with the puck, particularly when it comes to making a first pass out of the defensive zone. Particularly in the playoffs, teams tried to exploit Voynov by putting extra-strong pressure on him, in an attempt to force him into a turnover or a bad pass. As he gets older and gains more experience, Voynov will play with a bit more composure. Voynov also isn’t the strongest defenseman out there, and probably never will be, so he needs to make sure he’s always in good position in order to not get exposed to big hits.
Going forward: The Kings were patient with Voynov, and waited to bring him along until they believed they had found just the right situation. It is here, and Voynov is ready. Voynov and Willie Mitchell formed a great pairing, and Voynov looked up to Mitchell as a mentor, both on and off the ice. That’s also great news for the Kings. In terms of puck-moving defensemen, Voynov is second only to Drew Doughty on the Kings in terms of natural skill, and he’s only going to get better. The areas in which Voynov can improve will come naturally, as his NHL games-played total rises. He and Mitchell figure to continue their successful partnership.