Good Morning, Insiders!
Checking with the first of many seasons in review pieces, starting today with those who made their NHL debut during the 2021-22 season. Six players fall into today’s article, notes on their time in the NHL and AHL below, shifted for how frequently each played in each league.
NHL Statline – 64 games played, 3 goals, 24 assists, -9 rating, 55 penalty minutes
NHL Statline – 7 games played, 1 goal, 2 assists, -5 rating, 6 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 13 games played, 5 goals, 11 assists, +13 rating, 20 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 51.6% (-4.7%), SCF – 51.7% (-4.5%), HDCF – 50.2% (-4.8%)
Kicking off our debutants is the longest-tenured King on this list, Sean Durzi. Durzi stepped into the NHL lineup in late-November and never looked back, playing in all 64 games he was eligible to from that point in the season on, in addition to all seven games during the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Durzi went from debutant to the team’s time-on-ice leader in short order, moving his way up the lineup both through performance and opportunity due to injury. One of several seasons that exceeded preseason expectations, turning some heads in the process.
Durzi was above 50 percent in all three listed possession metrics, though the goals for / goals against categories were tilted against him, though there’s some notable context there. Durzi’s GF% (goals for percentage) was the second-lowest on the team amongst regulars, though those metrics fall well below his expected goals-for percentage, which was over 52 percent. Durzi also had the team’s lowest PDO amongst regulars, which is a loose indicator for luck. So, while there were some obvious areas for growth when it came to defensive play, perhaps it was not as ballooned as it was made out to be and it at least merits the conversation.
Where Durzi excelled was naturally at the offensive end of the ice. The Ontario native ranked in the NHL’s Top 5 in rush attempts per/60, among defensemen with more than 50 games played. He trailed only Drew Doughty on the Kings in assists this season, assuming much of Doughty’s power-play time during the latter’s injury spells. Among rookie defensemen to play for the bulk of the season, Durzi was among the league leaders in scoring chances and high-danger chances for, meaning he helped to create those higher-quality opportunities when on the ice.
Lots to like, lots to improve upon, but a successful first season without a doubt for Sean Durzi.
2022-23 Status – Durzi is a restricted free agent this summer after he completed his entry-level contract in 2021-22.
Durzi established himself as a regular at the NHL level here this season, with a unique skillset in the Kings’ pool of right-handed defensemen. Durzi also, however, plays the most crowded position in the pool, with three veterans signed to long-term contracts and Durzi and Jordan Spence both showing they can play at the NHL level. Perhaps the most interesting situation to watch this summer and into training camp.
*UPDATE – Durzi underwent successful shoulder surgery today. He is expected to be ready for next season.
NHL Statline – 4 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, -2 rating, 0 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 63 games played, 27 goals, 17 assists, +17 rating, 38 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 54.4% (-7.8%), SCF – 55.6% (-5.8%), HDCF – 57.1% (-4.5%)
Next up is young Samuel Fagemo, who made his NHL debut in January and wound up featuring four times with the Kings this season, including a 6-2 victory over Pittsburgh in his NHL debut.
Fagemo was given some time at the top of the lineup during his short stint with the Kings – his most common linemates at 5-on-5 were Anze Kopitar and Alex Iafallo – but his stay at the NHL level was shortlived with an already large group of forwards vying for roster spots. Fagemo left a solid impression from his four games played and went on to finish his season with a strong showing at the AHL level with the Ontario Reign.
Were it not for teammate Martin Frk, who netted 40 times in the AHL this season, Fagemo would have finished his 2021-22 season one shy of the Reign’s all-time high for goals in a single season with his 27. Fagemo scored 20 of his 27 goals after the calendar flipped to 2022 and 14 of his 17 assists in the second half as well. With 34 points from 40 games played in 2022, in addition to three goals from five postseason contests, Fagemo had a solid finish to what was his second season in North America, but his first in a full capacity.
2022-23 Status – Fagemo is signed through the 2022-23 season on his entry-level contract, at which time he would be a restricted free agent for the first time as a professional.
Fagemo had a strong campaign, contributing as one of the organization’s top offensive players at the AHL level this season, while earning himself his first taste of NHL action. Come training camp in the fall, Fagemo will still be waiver-exempt, which could work against him, but he’ll be one in a large group of players who will be vying for a few opening spots on the wing on the 2022-23 LA Kings roster.
NHL Statline – 19 games played, 0 goals, 2 assists, 3 rating, 2 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 30 games played, 3 goals, 7 assists, +6 rating, 10 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 54.3% (-2.1%), SCF – 54.7% (-1.7%), HDCF – 48.0% (-9.0%)
Not known for his offense, but rather for his reliable and steady contributions, defenseman Jacob Moverare was a pleasant surprise for the Kings, logging 19 games in his first taste of NHL action.
In the most complimentary way possible, not a ton happened this season when Moverare was on the ice. And that’s a great thing for him. Only defensemen Drew Doughty and Austin Strand had fewer shot attempts per 60 minutes against this season, with only Tobias Bjornfot and Olli Maatta having fewer shot attempts for. Moverare played a steady, reliable, low-event brand of hockey that was exactly what the Kings needed when several regulars on the blueline went down. What it amounted to was the team’s best GA/60 rate (1.51) amongst players with at least 250 minutes at 5-on-5 this season.
Suppressing shot attempts, preventing goals and controlling possession more often than not. Pretty good things to have attached to your name when you’ve only got 19 games of NHL experience.
Assuming you can accept the fact that not all players are here to provide offensive numbers, perhaps the biggest downside to Moverare’s season was that he found himself victim to the team’s mass return of defensemen in the second half. Moverare played just 28 games in total during the 2022 portion of the season between the Kings and Reign. While he did feature fairly regularly in March and April, Moverare’s waiver status did not allow him to return to the AHL level after the Trade Deadline and with the Kings up to as many as 10 defensemen in the closing stages of the season, he found himself as the odd-man out at times, including during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Overall, a good second season in North America for Moverare, who was a standout last season at the AHL level with Ontario.
2022-23 Status – Like many this summer, Moverare is a restricted free agent and will need to be qualified or signed to a new contract in order to continue with the organization.
The only left-handed defenseman under contract for next season with NHL experience is Tobias Bjornfot. As an RFA, assuming he re-signs with the Kings, Moverare would have the opportunity to battle for a depth role at the NHL level after he proved that his style of play was trustworthy with the NHL staff.
NHL Statline – 24 games played, 2 goals, 6 assists, 0 rating, 4 penalty minutes
NHL Statline – 3 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, -4 rating, 0 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 46 games played, 4 goals, 38 assists, +18 rating, 28 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 57.4% (+5.6%), SCF – 53.8% (+1.6%), HDCF – 51.3% (-2.8%)
Raise your hand if, back in October, you had Jordan Spence in the lineup for Game 1 of the postseason?
Don’t see too many up. Spence’s rise from October through May was perhaps larger than anyone else within the organization. On Opening Night in Ontario, Spence wasn’t expected to play every night at the AHL level at the start of the season, integrating himself into professional hockey. He soon blew through those expectations and once Sean Durzi was recalled to the NHL, Spence established himself as a regular on the best power play in AHL history, scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace. Spence was named to the AHL First All-Star Team and the AHL All-Rookie Team, cementing one of the strongest rookie seasons in Reign history.
Even with that in mind, he was never expected to play NHL games this season, but a rash of injuries forced that hand to be played. Spence never looked out of place and rarely made the same mistake twice. He learned on the fly and finished the season with a point every three games, earning power-play time without letting his size hurt him much at even strength. An incredibly impressive debut from the 20-year-old.
A 24-game sample size is what it is, but no rookie defenseman with that many games played or more was at a higher CF/60 than Spence did. He ranked inside the Top 5, per 60 minutes, in scoring chances for and high-danger chances for as well, among 29 qualifying defensemen. Lots to like from Spence’s first go-around this season.
2022-23 Status – The 2021-22 season was Spence’s first on an entry-level contract, with the young defensemen under contract through the 2023-24 season, at which time he would become a restricted free agent.
Perhaps the biggest thing going against Spence is his waiver-exempt status, with at least two more seasons in that boat. With a crowded right side of the blueline, Spence will certainly be in competition for a spot there come training camp of next season, even if the glut of right-handed defensemen may push him to the AHL to start the campaign. That won’t be as goal though, with the rapidly improving defenseman continuing to push for a roster spot.
NHL Statline – 4 games played, 0 goals, 2 assists, -2 rating, 2 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 46 games played, 7 goals, 22 assists, +6 rating, 26 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 27.9% (-30.1%), SCF – 29.4% (-25.0%), HDCF – 44.4% (-15.9%)
There was perhaps no bigger wild card entering training camp than Vladimir Tkachev.
Signed to a one-year, entry-level contract out of the KHL, little was known externally about the Russian forward, though his gifted playmaking abilities were well-known by the Kings organization. Tkachev was one of the best stories during training camp, a narrative only bolstered by two assists on opening night, with vision and passing ability that felt right at home on the power play.
Three games later, however, Tkachev wasn’t able to replicate that impact and he found himself at the AHL level, where he remained for the rest of the season. A four-game sample size is nothing to take as more than that, though his line with Gabriel Vilardi struggled at 5-on-5 to where both players were sent to the AHL to work on certain aspects of their game.
Tkachev had a pretty productive AHL season, with 22 assists and 29 points from 46 games, showcasing some of those highlight-reel level passing abilities, though he wasn’t always a regular in an incredibly deep Ontario lineup.
2022-23 Status – Tkachev signed a one-year contract with the Kings in the offseason and will be an arbitration-eligible, restricted free agent come the summer.
Should he re-sign with the Kings, he’d be amongst the group battling for a roster spot on the wing, with an offensively capable AHL situation also a possibility.
NHL Statline – 8 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 rating, 2 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 27 games played, 6 goals, 12 assists, +16 rating, 20 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 54.3% (-6.3%), SCF – 50.0% (-12.0%), HDCF – 47.2% (-15.9%)
It was great to see Turcotte play NHL games this season, with the Illinois native skating in eight games with the Kings prior to his 21st birthday. Turcotte earned an NHL recall right after Christmas, with the Kings sitting in a bit of COVID trouble at the time. Turcotte shuffled throughout the lineup in late-December into early-January, featuring on the second, third, and fourth lines at various times.
We saw the high-energy game that he’s capable of, with good tenacity and forechecking abilities. The offense didn’t follow in his first go around, though his AHL production has been solid to date, with a .66 points-per-game percentage throughout his first two seasons in the AHL. This was an important season for Turcotte in getting repetitions and trying to establish consistency in doing so. The disappointing part of Turcotte’s season was once again injury-related, which prevented him from doing that throughout the entire season.
After missing more than two months with an in-season injury, Turcotte took an illegal check to the head in Round 2, Game 1 of the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs and left the game, and the series, with a concussion. Kings General Manager Rob Blake shared after the season that it was not the first concussion the player has sustained, naturally a situation to monitor. No further update regarding Turcotte was provided at the time, beyond that he would not have returned in that series had it extended past three games.
2022-23 Status – Though he has played two full professional seasons, Turcotte still has two seasons remaining on his entry-level contract, with the 2020-21 campaign eligible for an ELC slide.
Turcotte’s health is naturally the first concern, so his look ahead begins with getting back on the ice and healthy. Turcotte now has NHL experience and nearly 60 games at the AHL level, with the 2019 first-round pick looking towards making the next step in his development. Whether that step is first becoming a dominating, AHL performer or becoming a full-time NHL contributor right away remains to be seen in training camp in the fall. Consider him, assuming full health, among those in contention for a roster spot during camp.
Up next, Insiders will be a look at those who had NHL games to their name and split the 2021-22 season between the AHL and NHL, but did not make their NHL debut. Individuals such as Rasmus Kupari and Gabriel Vilardi fall into that boat, amongst several others.
Much more to follow over the next month!