Anderson-Dolan, Kupari assigned; breaking down the final roster battles

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The LA Kings assigned forwards Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Rasmus Kupari to AHL-Ontario on Friday, reducing the number of players in training camp to 27. That includes Derek Forbort, who has a back injury and is expected to miss considerable time.

Neither Anderson-Dolan nor Kupari’s assignments were surprises. Both had been practicing with the Reign even in the morning of several preseason Kings games, as had Mikey Anderson and Cal Petersen, both of whom were assigned Tuesday. McLellan reaffirmed after Anderson-Dolan’s game in Anaheim that he envisions the versatile, two-way forward as a center and praised him for driving up the competition for a roster spot.

“We have to – and I’ve used this term before – we have to be ready for the player as well, and within those decisions, there’s cap issues, there’s roster spots, there’s playing time, there’s waivers, there’s asset management, there is ice time. I think a guy like Anderson-Dolan is better at playing center, I really do. Not that he can’t play wing, but I’d like to see him play center a little bit more. Are we ready for him in the center ice position? Does he need a little bit of time playing on maybe the top or the second line in the American League for a while? I don’t know the answer to that, but he’s making our decisions difficult where others have made it easy,” McLellan said after Wednesday’s game.

Again, there’s a very important component to this. We Have To Be Ready For The Player As Well. Keep that in mind when reading over several names below. And, as stated repeatedly this week, there will be players who play the majority of the season on the team who are omitted from the opening roster while they navigate around waiver status and the such. 23-man rosters are due October 1, and we’ll all have more throughout the weekend. McLellan said earlier today that he’d prefer one extra forward and one extra defenseman, but again, clauses, waiver status and ice time play a role. Also, this is immediately obsolete should the team experience an injury tonight, as happened in the final preseason game a year ago.

Anderson-Dolan recorded two goals, three points and four shots in four games, while Kupari was held scoreless in four games.


Forwards (15): Michael Amadio, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Kyle Clifford, Carl Grundstrom, Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, Mario Kempe, Ilya Kovalchuk, Anze Kopitar, Trevor Lewis, Blake Lizotte, Nikolai Prokhorkin, Tyler Toffoli, Austin Wagner
Defensemen (10 9): Tobias Bjornfot, Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Ben Hutton, Paul LaDue, Kurtis MacDermid, Alec Martinez, Matt Roy, Joakim Ryan, Sean Walker
Goalies (2): Jack Campbell, Jonathan Quick
Italics denote waiver-exempt status

Roster Locks (12)

Slightly Less Than A Lock, But They’ve Essentially Done Enough (3)
He’s leading the team in goals (3) and shots on goal (15) in the preseason. This isn’t quite Michael Amadio 2018 Preseason Hype, but he’s shown well at the start of an important year and will look to find a home as part of some consortium including Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis, Austin Wagner and perhaps Carl Grundstrom and Nikolai Prokhorkin.
Björnfot might be the best option to play alongside Drew Doughty to start the season, but the Kings aren’t quite at the point where they’d like to bring him in full-time and set his free agency clock in motion. As I shared with Nick Nickson during the first intermission on Wednesday, don’t be surprised to see him get somewhere between one and nine preseason games before the team makes a decision on him, which will be to ultimately return him to Djurgårdens and slide the start of his contract to 2020-21.
A more aggressive forecheck should take advantage of his strengths.

Better Than 50% Confidence They’re In (2)
With one preseason game to go, much of what I’m hearing is suggesting MacDermid opens the year as the seventh D. He’s closer to the defender he was at the end of 2018-19 than he was midway through 2017-18, and beyond his familiar rugged aspects, he’s been moving just a touch quicker with the puck. I’d be surprised if he was not on the opening roster, though he’s been waived before.
Martinez-Roy – err, Martinez-Partner – has been a regular preseason pairing. Roy is waiver-exempt, so there’s always a chance that he opens the year in Ontario and is recalled once the roster is sorted out, but Partnertinez is projected out of the gate.

On the Bubble (7)
Eight shots and two assists in four games, the best of which might have been the split-squad game in Glendale. He was recently praised for his straight-line play and fearlessness, but like any young player, consistency wavers and more “cerebral” aspects of positioning and intuition haven’t yet been developed. Squarely on the bubble, Grundstrom has still provided good minutes with the likes of Michael Amadio and Austin Wagner and found tangible chemistry with Adrian Kempe and Tyler Toffoli at the end of 2018-19. Even if he doesn’t open the year with the team, he’ll get his games.
A right-handed, waiver-eligible defenseman with the propensity to generate offense. The team will give itself plenty of reasons to keep LaDue, who is on a sped-up timeline after an off-season injury.
A player skating between Austin Wagner and Tyler Toffoli in the final preseason game would appear to be on the inside of the bubble, but Lizotte is waiver-exempt, so there’s a scenario in which he makes the team after a short period of roster nip and tuck. Coaches look at the overall body of work, but Lizotte, who was at his best in the split-squad and Vegas preseason games, would help himself with some proper punctuation to what has been a very encouraging rookie and training camp. Whether or not he makes the opening roster, he’s going to play – soon.
I’ve heard good things internally about Mario, currently battling for a fourth line role. McLellan praised his split-squad performance. He’s versatile, intelligent and has a very good approach. Lizotte’s emergence doesn’t help him make this team, nor does the intrigue of…
I’ve only caught one preseason game of his and am yet to talk extensively with the team about him since the exhibition season started but hope to do so tonight. (I can tell you that he is a PSG fan and saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic play there; soccer always makes a wonderful icebreaker with those still developing their English.) From my own viewings in one game and practices, he looks like he has skill and tenaciousness as advertised and would benefit from a handful of games in the AHL, but I’m not aware of the fine print of his contractual agreement with the team. Also: I’m a reporter, not a scout. The Kings declined to provide specifics in May of Prokhorkin’s European Assignment clause, so there’s some trickiness there. McLellan’s review after the Anaheim game wasn’t overly positive, but while called attention to Prokhorkin’s challenges with the pace and getting up to speed on a smaller ice surface, also believed that he has the wherewithal to score. “I believe he can finish,” he said. “I haven’t seen it yet, but I believe that he can find a way to finish.” Outlook not clear.
It’s not fair to Ryan that his one instantly recognizable moment was the own goal against Vegas, because he jumped into the play well and fired off three shots in the Anaheim game which, like his camp, improved as it progressed. Even if Ryan didn’t log heavy minutes, he got into all 20 playoff games with San Jose last season and has experience against top players as Brent Burns’ defensive partner. He’s still “finding his way with a new team and a new coach and a new system,” per McLellan, but the instinct is to believe that a roster spot is his unless/until someone takes it away from him.
Waiver-exempt, though he’s been trending towards Ben Hutton recently. His fate is somewhat tied to the fate of others, and McLellan has shared a few times that Walker, understandably, isn’t a player he was as familiar with as, say, Jeff Carter. One player from the group of LaDue, Ryan, MacDermid, Walker and Roy won’t make the team, and if the team leans towards protecting assets as it has suggested, Walker is more likely than Roy to open the season in Ontario – before an early call-up, potentially after Björnfot’s transaction.

Injured (1)
McLellan confirmed this morning that Forbort (back) won’t begin the season on the roster. He’s not skating – this is not a short-term injury. Good on Derek for coming to the Sandy Hook Promise event in Hermosa Beach on Tuesday.

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