The team was happy with how Fantenberg stepped in to play big minutes when needed in the playoffs. The defenseman’s smooth maneuvering through 41 minutes and 10 seconds of ice time in Game 2 gave Los Angeles an opportunity to win a road game in which they were without their top two defensemen and seemed to reinforce the potential benefit from a player who comes at low-cost and with a potentially modest-to-moderate yield.
“He’s been really sound in all areas,” John Stevens said the morning after his 41-minute game. “Sometimes a guy moves the puck well but doesn’t defend well. I think he’s been outstanding. His gaps have been really good, he’s been a really competitive player for us, he moves his feet and takes ice when it’s there and does a really good job moving a puck to speed when the opportunity is there. He’s come in and has really been a pleasant surprise in terms of the level he’s been able to perform at.”
Fantenberg will no longer be waiver-exempt in 2018-19, and given his low cap hit, would potentially draw heavy scrutiny on the wire should the Kings ever consider assigning him to Ontario. But because it appears they’ve found a depth option who has shown the ability to play with poise and pace under pressure and comes in at a palatable cap hit, he seems to be someone who again could play sixth or seventh-defensemen minutes if needed, with the potential to move up in the lineup when dictated by performance or personnel. He’ll still have to earn a spot, but those late-season games against Vegas seemed to indicate that he’s an NHL player.
Fantenberg, who turns 27 in October, appeared in 27 games for Los Angeles, recording nine points (2-7=9), a plus-two rating and 11 penalty minutes, along with a 47.4% Corsi-for percentage. In 25 games for Ontario, he recorded one goal and 13 points.
Fantenberg would become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019 without a new contract.
-Lead photo via Adam Pantozzi/NHLI