Good Morning, Insiders!
We continue through our look at some of the team’s blueliners from this past season, honing in today on young Tobias Bjornfot, who completed his first full NHL season with the Kings. Bjornfot is often thought of as being more senior than he is, considering his considerable experience both in the AHL and the NHL at such a young age, but many in his draft class were finishing their first professional season, while Bjornfot concluded his third.
NHL Statline – 70 games played, 0 goals, 8 assists, -12 rating, 6 penalty minutes
NHL Playoff Statline – 0 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, even rating, 0 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 49.3% (-6.4%), SCF – 48.9% (-6.5%), HDCF – 46.7% (-8.7%)
Tobias Bjornfot’s season was one with an expectation of building. Last season, Bjornfot was
a midseason recall from AHL-Ontario and his play was such that it forced the Kings to keep him in the NHL, activating the first season of his contract in the process. We saw some building blocks this season, as when Bjornfot was on his game, his skating ability combined with hockey sense and aggressiveness at both ends created an effective, two-way defensemen. There were other times, however, when Bjornfot didn’t have that level of play and it cost him, with his high-end games noticeable but his lesser games not quite up to snuff. Such is sometimes the life of a young defenseman in the NHL, though. at the end of it Bjornfot showed that he has the game he needs to play to find success. It’s just a matter of finding it more regularly moving forward that will define Bjornfot’s continued growth.
“[Early in the season] I thought Toby was in between a little bit, he was half in and half out in terms of being aggressive and assertive in his game,” Todd McLellan said. “Trent Yawney spent some good time with him and you could almost see it come out in a couple games, when he was aggressive and when we use that word, it’s not about running around and hitting people. It’s about using your legs, your mind, your hands to get into position both offensively and defensively.”
Trending Up – Looking at the 2019 NHL Draft, when Bjornfot was selected 22nd overall by the Kings, just five players from that class have played in more NHL games thus far in their careers, with Bjornfot’s 106 ranking first amongst defensemen. Only Detroit’s Moritz Seider, the Calder Trophy winner, played in more games amongst defensemen from that draft class this season alone, with Bjornfot’s contributions over the last two years placing him above Seider overall. Just recently a 21-year-old, Bjornfot has excelled when compared to his peers around the league, establishing himself in the NHL at a young age.
From a puck possession standpoint, Bjornfot’s percentages all sat at 50 percent or above in the second half of the season, improving in those areas from January 1 on. In that second half of the season, only Bjornfot’s regular defensive partner Sean Durzi was on the ice for more high-danger chances for on a per/60 basis than Bjornfot was, with HDCF the young blueliner’s top metrics as far as the possession numbers go.
Trending Down – Simply put, while the Bjornfot/Durzi pairing was on the ice for quality chance for, it also conceded a lot of goals against in the second half of the season. Much of this came down to availability, and with so many regulars out on the backend, increased roles and responsibilities were placed onto younger players whether they were ready or not. At 3.2 goals against on a per/60 basis in the second half of the season, Bjornfot’s total was the highest amongst all Kings defensemen during that stretch of play, as the team controlled less than 40 percent of goals in those games. An area that needs improvement for a player who, when at his best, takes pride in his defensive game.
While Bjornfot started the season as a regular in the lineup, on the second pairing with Matt Roy, his position on the depth chart fell in the latter stages of the season and into the postseason. There were inconsistencies when it came to Bjornfot’s game, and that is far from uncommon for a young defenseman. As it got to crunch time, however, the Kings opted to go with more veteran players in those meaningful games, with the experience serving as a learning one for Bjornfot, who the Kings expect to see claim a spot in those situations moving forward.
2022-23 Status – Bjornfot is entering the final season of his entry-level contract. His deal began last season, as he shattered through the minimum games played mark and was extended for year two in 2021-22. He’ll be a restricted free agent at the end of next season.
Bjornfot was a mainstay in the Kings lineup for the majority of the season, but following an injury in March, he wasn’t able to reclaim his place in the lineup during the team’s postseason run, with veterans Alex Edler and Olli Maatta in the lineup alongside mainstay Mikey Anderson on the left side. Bjornfot stiil has terrific upside on the backend, blending strong skating ability with heady defending and untapped offensive skills that were showcased during his time in the AHL. Entering training camp, Bjornfot’s goal will be to not just reclaim his regular spot in the lineup, but also to expand upon on it moving forward.