2023 Kings Seasons In Review – NHL/AHL Split

Good morning, Insiders!

We’re kicking off our annual look at seasons in review with players who split their seasons between the NHL and the AHL in 2022-23.

Lias Andersson
NHL Statline – 1 game played, 0 goals, 0 assists, -1 rating
AHL Statline – 67 games played, 31 goals, 28 assists, -17 rating, 38 penalty minutes

Lias Andersson had his most consistent AHL season in 2022-23, leading the Ontario Reign in goalscoring and serving as a leader among a group of young prospects. While he only appeared in a single game at the NHL level with the Kings, Andersson set career highs in both games played and scoring at the AHL level.

In each of his previous professional seasons since coming to North America after his draft year in 2017-18, Andersson has been up and down between the NHL and AHL and has dealt with various injuries along the way. Being able to stay healthy for a full year, while mostly playing on a line with Reign leading scorer TJ Tynan, allowed Andersson to regain his offensive confidence in a breakout year numbers-wise.

As opposed to being in a mostly bottom-six role with the Kings, Andersson got top-six minutes with Ontario and his numbers reflect that. Although he was used at both center and wing previously, Andersson was exclusively deployed on the left wing by Reign head coach Marco Sturm this season.

He was a big contributor to the power play, with 15 power-play goals, which ranked not only first on the team but second-most in the entire league. Andersson was one of several high-scoring options on the team’s unit, which finished the season ranked seventh in the AHL at 22.2%.

The downside for Andersson was that the opportunities never came for him with the Kings. His 110 total NHL games through six seasons leave him behind others on the NHL roster, with 44 of those coming with LA over the past three years.

2023-24 Status – For the second consecutive year, Andersson is a restricted free agent, after signing a one-year extension with the Kings last July.

A decision will need to be made on Andersson, whose consistency was welcomed with the Reign, but his long-term is more questionable, as he factored into just a single game in Los Angeles. Andersson and the Kings are now comfortable with each other, but with a large group of players vying for bottom-six roles with the big club, a decision will have to be made regarding his role moving forward.

Tobias Bjornfot
NHL Statline – 10 games played, 0 goals, 1 assist, +1 rating, 6 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 50 games played, 5 goals, 7 assists, 0 rating, 8 penalty minutes

Bjornfot found himself in more of a call-up role during 2022-23, a spot he hadn’t been in since his rookie professional year in 2019-20. After suiting up for 70 games with the Kings a season ago, Bjornfot’s age and contract status, with the ability to be sent down without having to clear waivers, made him a candidate for more playing time in Ontario.

He logged big minutes with the Reign in all situations, playing on the left side of a consistent pairing with Jordan Spence for the majority of the year. With Spence being the more offensively-inclined blueliner, Bjornfot remained as more of a stay-at-home option.

There were stretches of time where Bjornfot became more comfortable and showed more of an offensive flair, and while that usually led to a call-up from the Kings, it seemed like upon his return Bjornfot slotted back into that comfortable, conservative role.

Ontario’s penalty kill, despite having a slow start to the season, finished with an excellent overall mark of 84.4% and Bjornfot was a big part of that unit.

The Kings have spent most of the last few seasons looking for defenders to step up on the left side and Bjornfot has shown flashes, though he has not made himself an indispensable option in the NHL lineup at this point in time.

2023-24 Status – Bjornfot is a restricted free agent for the first time in his career and will need a new contract after his entry-level agreement expired at the end of 2022-23.

Assuming he signs an extension and remains in the fold with the Kings organization, the 22-year-old will no longer be someone who can be sent to the AHL without passing through waivers. As it did this season on the other end of the scale, it could factor into his roster status next season, making the Kings think twice about a potential demotion, as they are without many young, lefty defenders on the roster. It will be up to Bjornfot to come into training camp ready to earn himself a full-time NHL role.

Brandt Clarke
NHL Statline – 9 games played, 0 goals, 2 assists, -1 rating, 6 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 5 games played, 1 goal, 1 assist, -3 rating, 8 penalty minutes
OHL Statline – 31 games played, 23 goals, 38 assists, +40 rating, 28 penalty minutes

What a whirlwind year it was for Clarke, who had more changes in circumstance throughout the season than any other player in the organization. He began with rookie camp and showcased himself in the preseason, playing in each of the Kings’ exhibition games. When camp broke, he was a member of LA’s opening-night roster and rotated in and out of the lineup during the first few weeks of the season, playing nine games before being sent to Ontario on a conditioning loan in mid-November. He then joined Team Canada at the World Junior Championships and helped lead his country to a gold-medal-winning performance before he finished with 31 regular season games and 12 playoff contests in the OHL with the Barrie Colts.

The hype around Clarke continued to grow throughout the season as he racked up the accolades in the junior ranks. While he showed glimpses of that high promise during his limited time as a pro, his output with Barrie was unlike any other defender in junior hockey. Projected out through a full season, Clarke was on pace for well over 100 points in the OHL.

In February at the Kings’ State of the Franchise event, Assistant General Manager Nelson Emerson had high praise for Clarke.

“This kid is the real deal – he’s fun to watch, he really is,” Emerson said. “He’s in the right place in the OHL. That’s where he needs to be. It’s okay, and it’s awesome that we could put him there, but he’ll be here soon enough.”

With so many factors and different situations to go through, it makes for a tough assignment in assessing Clarke’s season. His head was on a swivel for much of the year, but he did enough at the NHL level while he was there to showcase his skill and he is continuing to trend upward for the Kings.

2023-24 Status – Having previous experience with training camp and regular season games in both the NHL and AHL should serve Clarke well next season when he makes the jump to pro, full-time.

Because he only played nine games at the NHL level, Clarke’s entry-level contract will slide an extra year. As he did this past season, Clarke will no doubt compete for an opening night roster spot with the Kings again in the fall but also could be a candidate to spend some time in Ontario, where he would be eligible to play on a full-time basis.

Samuel Fagemo
NHL Statline – 9 games played, 2 goals, 1 assist, -4 rating,
AHL Statline – 56 games played, 23 goals, 9 assists, -24 rating, 8 penalty minutes

Fagemo continued his development during his third North American season in a role primarily with Ontario. He did earn himself multiple chances with the Kings, playing in nine games at the highest level after making his NHL debut the year prior when he appeared in four contests. The three points he collected were the first time he was on the scoresheet at the NHL level.

In 56 games for the Reign, Fagemo was second on the team behind Andersson with 23 goals. He added 13 power play tallies, eclipsing his total of nine from 2021-22. Fagemo was used primarily in a top-six role in Ontario and created chemistry with many of his linemates throughout the season, including Alex Turcotte.

He’s shown he can score, but Fagemo is still working on rounding out the defensive side of his game. He previously had logged time on the penalty kill with the Reign, but wasn’t counted on for those types of minutes this season.

When asked for his own reflections on the season, Fagemo was honest about his performance.

“I think I can do a better job 5-on-5 sometimes,” Fagemo said. “The power play was good, and I kept on shooting the puck and stuff, so I think I’m happy, but I think I can do better as well.”

There’s been good progress from the team’s second round pick in 2019, but even more is needed from Fagemo for him to become an NHL regular for the Kings in the future.

2023-24 Status – Fagemo is another young player who will need a new contract. He’ll be a restricted free agent for the first time as his entry-level agreement is up.

As with Bjornfot, Fagemo will need to pass through waivers to be sent to the AHL beginning next season. Being an overaged draft selection, he is at that waiver status, despite featuring in one fewer professional season than Bjornfot, a fellow 2019 selection. Roster spots at the NHL level will be hard to come by. Though Todd McLellan has expressed optimism on Fagemo at various points, it’ll be on the young Swede to come in and try to win a job.

Jacob Moverare
NHL Statline – 2 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, -1 rating,
AHL Statline – 62 games played, 4 goals, 22 assists, -7 rating, 37 penalty minutes

Aside from a few quick call-ups, Jacob Moverare spent the majority of his third season in North America in the AHL with the Ontario Reign and he recorded career-highs in scoring, totaling 26 points which were second most on the blue line behind Jordan Spence (45).

Known for his shutdown defensive play, Moverare said after the season that he had a goal of adding offense to his game, and he achieved that by jumping into the rush a bit more often with Ontario.

Moverare has developed into a very dependable defender on the left side, someone who was available in all situations for the Reign’s coaching staff. That includes power play, where the Swede filled in during Spence’s call-ups when someone was needed to quarterback the top unit. He skated in two NHL games with the Kings, but the organization saw far greater health on the backend, limiting his opportunities.

2023-24 Status – Moverare signed a two-year contract extension with the Kings last June which now has one year remaining for 2023-24.

With the Kings potentially in need of more stability on the left side of their defense, they know they can always count on Moverare at both the NHL and AHL levels to bring consistency on the back end. A reliable and steady option, Moverare is available and experienced if called upon in a seventh defenseman or bottom-pairing role.

Cal Petersen
NHL Statline – 10 games played, 543 minutes played, 5-3-2 record, 3.75 goals against average, .868 save percentage
AHL Statline – 40 games played, 2,396 minutes played, 16-20-4 record, 2.88 goals against average, .904 save percentage

It’s a pretty big understatement to say that Cal Petersen’s 2022-23 season didn’t go as expected. Not only did he only appear in 10 games for the Kings, Petersen actually totaled more minutes in the AHL this season than he ever did before, surpassing the 2,330 he logged as a rookie during 2017-18.

Once the decision was made to send Petersen to the AHL, the organization made it a priority to get his game back on track and did everything they could for him to achieve that, giving him a start whenever he felt ready for one.

But unfortunately for Petersen, Pheonix Copley took his opportunity and ran with it, solidifying himself as a go-to netminder for the Kings immediately. That left the sixth-year goaltender manning the crease for the Reign for the remainder of the year.

Lots of those games required Petersen to overextend himself trying to compensate for an Ontario defense that was stretched thin, which produced middling results. But the goaltender remained as dependable as ever, logging healthy minutes while the team fought for a playoff spot.

To cap off his season, Petersen joined Team USA at the IIHF World Championships in Finland and Latvia this month, looking to gain momentum as the offseason begins.

2023-24 Status – Petersen’s current contract, signed in September of 2021, has two seasons remaining and will extend through the 2024-25 year.

With the Kings goaltending picture unclear for the foreseeable future, Petersen may get the opportunity to regain his spot in the NHL during 2023 training camp. As of this time, the Kings have just three goaltenders signed to NHL contracts – Petersen, Copley and Erik Portillo, who will begin his first professional season in the fall. Only Petersen and Copley have professional experience and at this time, would be on track to be a potential NHL tandem as it stands today. The Kings goal is to “get Cal to be an NHL goalie”, as Rob Blake said during exit interviews, so that’s the focus moving into the summer.

Jordan Spence
NHL Statline – 6 games played, 0 goals, 1 assist, +1 rating
AHL Statline – 56 games played, 4 goals, 41 assists, -18 rating, 34 penalty minutes

Spence was right on the cusp of the NHL all season, playing major minutes with the Reign, while continuing to develop his all-around game during his second professional year. He was a leader at both ends of the ice, at times wearing an “A” on his sweater while taking charge in all three zones.

As was discussed above, he solidified RD1 on the Reign depth chart, alongside Bjornfot, as he played against the opposing team’s best players each night for Ontario. The biggest noticeable jump in Spence’s play was his physicality and aggressiveness on defense. He didn’t shy away from going after opponents who were carrying the puck and it resulted in ending many plays in the Reign’s defensive zone.

Spence was thrust into a role with the Kings last spring as they chased a playoff spot, appearing in 24 games down the stretch and three more in the postseason against Edmonton. This year as the team’s defensive corps stayed much healthier, he was only needed for six games in the NHL.

Although he played more AHL games this year, the blueliner passed the 42 points he racked up for Ontario as a rookie. Spence’s point total was top-10 among AHL defenders while his 41 assists were fourth-most on the back end. Equally as impressive, Spence’s 168 shots on goal were seventh among defenders and second on the team behind Andersson.

Spence’s best attribute might have been his work on the power play, where he racked up 25 of his helpers running the Reign’s top man-advantage unit.

2023-24 Status – Spence has one year remaining on his entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2023-24 season.

The skilled defender will once again be someone the Kings can count on for the right side of their defense and should continue to improve with more NHL playing time. With just five defensemen currently signed at the NHL level, Spence will have an opportunity to compete for a roster spot in September.

Alex Turcotte
NHL Statline – 4 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, -2 rating, 5 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 32 games played, 6 goals, 11 assists, +4 rating, 18 penalty minutes

Other than a short call-up opportunity in January, where Turcotte saw action in four NHL games, the center spent the rest of his season in the AHL with Ontario. While the feedback was generally positive from those appearances, unfortunately multiple injuries did not allow Turcotte to play a long stretch of games without interruption again this season.

When Rob Blake was asked about Turcotte and what he’d like to see from him during his end of season media availability he answered with one word, “health”.

That response can be taken twofold. While Turcotte’s career trajectory has been slowed and has frustrated him, his coaches and fans since he turned pro in 2020, he is arguably the organization’s closest forward prospect to being NHL-ready.

When he was healthy and in the lineup for the Reign, he made a noticeable difference in how the team played overall. The consistent, responsible and strong two-way play through the middle of the ice changed the flow of the game. Turcotte is always on the attack, hunting the puck down when he doesn’t have it and then when he does, looking to distribute to his linemates.

He had a late start to the year, with his first action not coming until mid-November, but Turcotte was an impact player until he was sidelined again toward the end of January. He then returned for a five-game stretch in February before a lower-body injury kept him out for a five-week period.

Turcotte’s return from that setback came with the team reeling, having lost 10 straight games, but he immediately injected life into the roster, sparking not only a win to end the streak, but multiple victories in a row. During the stretch run of the season, with Ontario fighting for playoff positioning, Reign Head Coach Marco Sturm praised his play.

“He looks good,” Sturm said. “It feels like he’s playing his game over and over again. He doesn’t take any shifts off. He’s a grinder and he just has to stick with it. I think that’s the biggest challenge that he has to stick with. You can’t get beat or get frustrated, and he shouldn’t because he’s played great hockey and he’s a great hockey player. That’s something I think he’s been getting better and better at every week and every game. He’s been a plus for our team and we’ve definitely jumped on his wagon.”

2023-24 Status – Turcotte is entering the final year of his entry-level contract this season, in what will be his fourth with the Kings organization. As a 19-year-old, his rookie season was slide eligible, making him a restricted free agent next summer.

If he’s healthy and the opportunity is there, Turcotte is very close to being ready for the Kings.

Next, we’ll take a look at the players who joined the Kings at the deadline, logging split campaigns between the Kings and another NHL organization. Much more to follow!

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