21/22 Kings Seasons In Review – NHL/AHL Split

Back at it, Insiders!

The second seasons in review piece comes with those who split their seasons between the NHL and the AHL, but were not in the AHL due to injury.

Jaret Anderson-Dolan
NHL Statline – 7 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, -3 rating, 4 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 54 games played, 24 goals, 23 assists, +9 rating, 51 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 53.1% (-2.2%), SCF – 62.7% (+8.1%), HDCF – 53.9% (+3.4%)

Jaret Anderson-Dolan has now played games with the LA Kings in four straight seasons, dating back to the 2018-19 season, when he made his NHL debut. Anderson-Dolan has made strides of progress from that point until now, both at the NHL and AHL levels. After spending the bulk of last season with the Kings, in a bottom-six role, Anderson-Dolan spent the bulk of this season with the AHL’s Ontario Reign as one of the team’s leading point producers.

In the NHL, Anderson-Dolan had an opportunity on the first line. He had opportunities in the bottom six. And in those chances, his metrics were solid, but he failed to collect a point in those situations. With more established centers, Anderson-Dolan played mostly on the wing in the NHL, impressing in an energy role, but not cementing his status in a scoring role. On an individual level, Anderson-Dolan’s shot attempts and scoring chances per 60 minutes were at the highest level of his career. His defensive metrics, in terms of suppressing opportunities, were also at far and away the best levels of his career.

The downside was the lack of tangible production, with no points from seven games played. That’s an area for improvement, though he has proven he can contribute in a role on this team at the NHL level. In the AHL, Anderson-Dolan had a breakout season, with 24 goals and 47 points from just 56 games. He was a big contributor on the power play, with 12 power-play goals, as one of several lethal options on Ontario’s top-ranked unit, tied for eighth in the league.

Anderson-Dolan’s status is one to watch for sure, as a player on the cusp of cracking through on a more permanent.

2022-23 Status – For the first time in his career, Anderson-Dolan is a restricted free agent, after playing out his entry-level contract this past season.

Assume to see JAD in the mix for a roster spot come the fall, as one of several individuals in contention for a place on the NHL roster. In his favor is his versatility, with the ability to play both center and wing, and his experience of contributing in a bottom-six role.

Martin Frk
NHL Statline – 6 games played, 2 goals, 0 assists, -4 rating, 2 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 58 games played, 40 goals, 33 assists, +16 rating, 73 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 58.6% (+0.2%), SCF – 51.0% (-5.0%), HDCF – 59.3% (+2.5%)

Frk is coming off one of the best offensive seasons at the AHL level in franchise history, as he scored 40 times in 58 games played. Frk’s pace was the best in the league in terms of goals-per-game (.689) and his 40 goals were the second most in the AHL overall. His season partnered that of linemate T.J. Tynan, the league’s MVP, and earned him a spot on the AHL Second All-Star Team for his performance.

Frk was one of the league’s best weapons on the man advantage, a big part in Ontario’s record-setting season in that category. Frk scored 15 power-play goals, many taking advantage of his booming shot, the second most in the AHL this season. Frk was the first player in the AHL since Colin McDonald in the 2010-11 season to score 40+ goals and 15+ power-play goals in a single season.

At the NHL level, Frk got into six games with the Kings, scoring two goals, including one of the team’s biggest goals of the season. With the Kings trailing 2-1 against Florida, Frk wired a one-timer home to tie the game in the waning minutes of regulation, using his slapshot to aid the team. That was Frk’s final goal of the season, however, as he was unable to replicate that success in future opportunities.

2022-23 Status – Frk’s two-year, one-way contract expires at the end of this season, making him an unrestricted free agent come July.

Frk is an interesting case, because he is one of the best players in the AHL and has proven to be effective in short spurts at the NHL level as well. He wore an “A” this season with the Reign, taking strides forward as a leader for younger players coming up. Frk will likely have suitors around the league, potentially including the Kings, as a veteran player capable of playing in both leagues in the right role.

Rasmus Kupari
NHL Statline – 57 games played, 5 goals, 8 assists, -5 rating, 18 penalty minutes
NHL Playoff Statline – 5 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, -1 rating, 2 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 15 games played, 5 goals, 3 assists, +2 rating, 12 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 46.1% (-8.9%), SCF – 45.9% (-7.3%), HDCF – 46.2% (-7.2%)

Rasmus Kupari found himself in a spot that many young players find themselves in early in their careers. When Kupari played his game, to its fullest, he opened up a lot of eyes in a “WOW” type manner. With his combination of size, speed and skill, Kupari has a package of abilities that few in the organization can boast. The other side of the coin was consistency, with seeing those abilities broadcast on a consistent game-to-game basis.

That was the story of Kupari’s season with the Kings. The most-tenured name on this list in terms of NHL games played this season, Kupari really enforced his game early in the season, proving to be an effective winger on the third or fourth lines. Over time, his effectiveness waivered a bit game-to-game, showing impact on certain days and blending into the game during others. We saw some of that later in the season as well, though a bit more impactful down the stretch.

In many areas, Kupari’s possession metrics were the lowest on the Kings amongst regulars, in terms of percentage of opportunities controlled. He rarely hurt the Kings in those instances, however, ranking in the top half of the team in goals allowed per 60 minutes, and as the team’s best forward in terms of high-danger goals allowed per 60 minutes. Many times, younger players breaking in don’t make a certain impact as they fight to find their game, but hurt the team in the process. Kupari rarely did that, playing a decently low-event game overall.

Kupari was assigned to AHL-Ontario for a short stretch from February into early-March. His production was decent in the AHL, though not at the level of his strong 2020-21 season. Upon recall from that point on, however, Kupari was impactful up front on the “kid line” with Gabe Vilardi and Quinton Byfield, a line that stayed intact for a large stretch of the playoff push in March and April.

2022-23 Status – Kupari is entering the final year of his entry-level contract this season, in what will be his fourth season with the Kings organization. As a 19-year-old, his rookie season was slide eligible, making him a free agent next summer.

Kupari played a large chunk of the season in the NHL, as noted above, and will find himself in contention for a roster spot in the fall. His versatility, playing both center and wing, helps his cause, as does his familiarity at this level. Signs of an impressive season for sure, with more to come as well in establishing himself as an NHL regular.

Garret Sparks
NHL Statline – 2 games played, 97 minutes played, 1-0-0 record, 1.85 goals against average, .936 save percentage
AHL Statline – 12 games played, 646 minutes played, 5-5-0 record, 3.25 goals against average, .896 save percentage

Garret Sparks played just two NHL games this season, with just one of those being a start. But that start certainly provided one of the most memorable moments of the season, on a few different levels.

For one, it was a return to the NHL for Sparks for the first time since the 2019-20 season. He began last year in the ECHL, playing for the Orlando Solar Bears. He worked his way back and eventually got the opportunity to start in Washington, on the second half of a back-to-back, at the end of a four-game road trip. In many instances, that’s what you’d call a scheduled loss. But Sparks came in, made 33 saves on 35 shots and turned some heads in doing it, before one of the most powerful post-game media availabilities of the season. It was his only win with the Kings this season, but at the end of a trip, with the Kings having several players in COVID Protocol, it was actually a really important one for the organization to head home on.

Sparks also logged 12 games in the regular season with AHL-Ontario, in addition to two in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Sparks was solid for the Reign, as the veteran in a tandem with prospect Matthew Villalta, and posted a 5-5-0 record that was frontloaded, with an injury costing him much of the second half of the season.

2022-23 Status – Sparks signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Kings last summer and is an unrestricted free agent come July. His outlook upcoming depends on re-signing, naturally, but if he were to come back, it would likely be in the same role, as a veteran third goaltender for the organization.

Austin Strand
NHL Statline – 8 games played, 0 goals, 2 assists, -1 rating, 0 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 32 games played, 3 goals, 4 assists, -1 rating, 30 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 58.2% (+3.1%), SCF – 51.7% (-0.4%), HDCF – 48.7% (-5.3%)

It feels in many ways like there are parts of several of these recaps that could be copy/pasted. Not on the roster out of training camp, stepped in when called upon, filled a role and filled it admirably. That was the case with Austin Strand this season. Strand was called up a few times during the year and found himself in eight total games – two in October, one in January, one February, four in March.

The Kings won four of those games and lost four of those games. As noted up top, Strand’s possession metrics were just fine, trending slightly above his teammates in total attempts, right around average in scoring chances and slightly below in high-danger chances. He produced two pretty important assists in a win over Detroit in the team’s final game before the break and provided some traits you like to see from a player filling in. Size and physicality, a quick first pass and not being overwhelmed by the pace or the moment.

In those regards, it was great to have Austin Strand to rely on the right side when called upon and had it not been for the midseason emergence of Sean Durzi, perhaps Strand would have featured more down the stretch.

At the AHL level, Strand’s production was down a bit from what he’d done throughout the course of his career, though he was also in and out a ton between callups and senddowns. Strand also was in a difficult position down the stretch, in that he didn’t appear in a game at any level from March 19 on. At that point, Strand was one more injury from getting back in, but by the time the Kings got back to full health, he was no longer AHL eligible and found himself ninth or tenth in the pecking order.

2022-23 Status – For the first time in his professional career, Strand is an unrestricted free agent this summer, qualifying as a Group 6 UFA.

Strand could return as a depth signing, or potentially look for an opportunity with a less-crowded path towards NHL opportunities, considering the logjam of players on the right side for the Kings heading into the fall.

T.J. Tynan
NHL Statline – 2 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 rating, 0 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 62 games played, 14 goals, 84 assists, +12 rating, 18 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 46.7% (-7.8%), SCF – 47.1% (-8.5%), HDCF – 66.7% (+37.0%)

If you took Martin Frk’s season from a goals scored perspective, and turned it into assists, you’d have something like T.J. Tynan’s season, though perhaps the latter was even more impressive.

Tynan won the AHL Most Valuable Player Award for the second consecutive season, as he finished one assist shy of the league’s modern-day record of 85, set by NHL veteran Jason Spezza during the NHL’s lockout season in 2004-05. Tynan’s assist total was naturally the most in the AHL this season, 11 clear of the second closest player, while his 98 points were three shy of the league lead. Coming along with his MVP Award was a place on the AHL’s First All-Star Team, capping one of the most impressive seasons in league history.

More on Tynan’s MVP-Worthy season from Ontario Reign contributor Jared Shafran HERE.

At the NHL level, Tynan’s time with the Kings was a brief cameo, as he played two games with the club in early-December, a win over Edmonton and a loss against Vancouver. Both games were played on the road, as Tynan centered the team’s third line for those two games. Tynan didn’t look out of place in those games, but with the duo of Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault in the Top 6, the offensive role Tynan likely needs was not readily available with the Kings, and that one opportunity was all he had at the NHL level.

2022-23 Status – Like Sparks, Tynan signed a one-year contract with the Kings this offseason. He is an unrestricted free agent come July.

Like Frk, Tynan was a valuable player at the AHL level specifically, wearing an “A” and helping to lead the team’s large group of young prospects. Tynan could opt to re-sign with the Kings in a similar, depth role, or potentially seek out a clearer path to the NHL elsewhere, with the Kings extremely deep at the center position.

Gabriel Vilardi
NHL Statline – 25 games played, 5 goals, 2 assists, -5 rating, 8 penalty minutes
NHL Playoff Statline – 2 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, even rating, 0 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 39 games played, 15 goals, 23 assists, +4 rating, 18 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 44.8% (-9.9%), SCF – 44.9% (-6.5%), HDCF – 49.5% (-3.2%)

Gabe Vilardi’s season is broken into three separate segments, in a very defined way.

He started the season at the NHL level, spending the first month of the season with the Kings. He then entered COVID Protocol and was assigned to AHL-Ontario shortly thereafter, where he spent the next four months. He was then recalled in March, with a rash of NHL injuries, and spent the rest of the season in the NHL, appearing in 18 additional games, as well as two in the postseason.

First Segment – October
Shot Attempts – 46 For / 76 Against – 37.7 CF%
Scoring Chances – 20 For / 39 Against – 33.9 SCF%
High-Danger Chances – 9 For / 14 Against – 39.1 HDCF%

Second Segment – November – March (w/ AHL-Ontario)
Puck possession metrics are not publicly available at the AHL level, at least from a reputable, leaguewide source, but Vilardi had a strong push with the Reign.

In 39 games, Vilardi tallied 15 goals and 38 points, producing at a point-per-game pace in the AHL. Vilardi was sent down to work on his defensive game and to learn to play on the wing, and by all accounts he did both of those things well.

Third Segment – March – May (Regular Season + Playoffs)
Shot Attempts – 197 For /219 Against – 47.8 CF%
Scoring Chances – 100 For / 103 Against – 49.3 SCF%
High-Danger Chances – 46 For / 40 Against – 53.5 HDCF%

As you can see from segment one to segment three, there was a massive improvement made by Vilardi as it pertains to his puck possession metrics. Vilardi’s totals increased across the board, as did his offensive production, which was one goal from the first seven games and six points from 18 regular-season games after. Not to say that’s the level he’s capable of, but still an uptick. A much more effective player, who earned his place in a couple of playoff games, down the stretch.

Vilardi’s 200-foot game was much improved in his second time around, with his wallplay and defensive-zone improvements praised by the coaching staff. His offensive gifts are towards the top of those coming through the system, and he’ll need to continue to improve in that area from a production standpoint moving ahead.

2022-23 Status – Vilardi is a restricted free agent this summer and will need a qualifying offer or a new contract in advance of next season.

Vilardi’s next task, now that his position has been established on the wing, is to cement a full-time NHL roster spot. He has an opportunity to do that come the fall, but he’ll need to earn it amongst a crowded pool of wingers fighting for say 3-4 roster positions. Some in that pool are more established than Vilardi, others are less so, but that’s the position he’s in at this point.

Christian Wolanin
NHL Statline – 9 games played (8 w/ LAK, 1 w/ BUF), 1 goals, 1 assists, 1 rating, 2 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 37 games played, 1 goals, 17 assists, -2 rating, 22 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 54.8% (+4.1%), SCF – 55.0% (+6.2%), HDCF – 64.7% (+17.1%)
*NHL Statline is combined between LAK and BUF. Possession metrics and relative percentages shows are LAK only, not including BUF*

If Garret Sparks earned one of the biggest wins of the season in Washington, then it has to be said that Christian Wolanin’s contributions in that game were equally important. Wolanin scored early in the third period to tie the game and set the stage for Adrian Kempe’s eventual game winner. Two unlikely heroes from a night on which the Kings were in need of them.

Wolanin’s story also shares some similarities with many of the other defensemen covered so far. When he was needed, he stepped in and contributed. Wolanin was needed a couple of times and played important minutes on a thin blueline. He showed in moments that he can play at the NHL level and he showed that he can contribute. Wolanin is a smooth skater and a puck mover and he was able to use those tools when in the lineup.

Wolanin’s possession metrics showed a player who excelled in the Kings’ high-volume system. Wolanin was well over the 50-percent mark with the Kings and was even positive compared to his teammates. Despite being offensively minded, Wolanin was on the ice for just two goals against at 5-on-5 this season and on the ice for three for.

At the AHL level, Wolanin is a former AHL All-Star and was just shy of a half point-per-game with AHL-Ontario. Wolanin is a player who helped with a young defensive core with the Reign, both on and off the ice.

2022-23 Status – Wolanin signed a one-year contract in the offseason and is an unrestricted free agent come July.

Wolanin expressed his admiration for the Kings organization, an admiration that extended to the AHL level. He signed a one-year deal last summer, despite not having a direct path to an NHL role, and could do so again should he and the Kings agree to terms.

That’s all for now, Insiders! Coming up, we’ll take a look at those who saw their seasons impacted by injury and those

Much more to follow over the next month!

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