How The Kings Were Built: 2023-24 Edition

For the third summer in a row, LA Kings General Manager Rob Blake acquired a high-profile forward to improve his club’s depth. Blake and the Kings succeeded in returning to the playoffs, though the club ultimately failed to advance beyond the first round in both 2022 and 2023.

The offseason isn’t the only time to improve your club and Blake made several moves over the last calendar year to give his team the opportunity to make a deep playoff run in 2024.

Here’s a look at how the 2023-24 LA Kings were built and the three distinct stages of Rob Blake’s tenure as GM of the LA Kings.

Before we look at the roster, we should acknowledge that there are a handful of players that Rob Blake inherited when he was named General Manager in April of 2017. Captain Anze Kopitar, however, is the only remaining player on the Kings roster currently playing on a contract not signed by Rob Blake. The center signed a two-year extension earlier this summer but is in the final year of the contract he signed back in January of 2016.

Drew Doughty is halfway through the eight-year contract extension he signed in the summer of 2018 and is coming off the third highest point total (52) of his fifteen-season career. Adrian Kempe, drafted in 2014, is in the second year of a four-year contract signed in the summer of 2022. Matt Roy, drafted in 2015, is in the final year of a three-year contract he signed in March of 2021. Jacob Moverare, a fourth-round pick of the LA Kings in the 2016 draft, has appeared in 21 games for the Kings and 118 games for the Ontario Reign and is in the final year of his two-year contract extension signed in the summer of 2022.

(APRIL 2017 to NOVEMBER 2018)

When Rob Blake became General Manager, he made a priority of keeping his draft picks and prospects while continuing to push for playoff contention with the roster already assembled. His first draft yielded three NHL players out of seven picks. Mikey Anderson, taken in the fourth round, is entering the first year of an eight-year contract extension and has all but cemented a role as Drew Doughty’s partner on the Kings top defensive unit. Taken in the second round, Jaret Anderson-Dolan has an opportunity to finally break through and earn a permanent spot in the Kings lineup.

Gabriel Vilardi, selected 11th overall in 2017, and Alex Iafallo, an undrafted free agent signing out of college that same summer, were both traded to Winnipeg in June as a part of the trade that brought Pierre-Luc Dubois to Los Angeles. Vilardi began to deliver on the promise of his draft profile this past season, while Iafallo was a regular fixture in the lineup before being included in the trade.

The 2018 Entry Draft was less successful than 2017. To date, only Rasmus Kupari (20th overall) has appeared in a Kings jersey. The Finnish forward appeared in 130 games and was the third roster player moved to Winnipeg alongside Vilardi and Iafallo earlier this summer.

(November 2018 – July 2021)

The team faltered out of the gate to start the 2018-19 season and Head Coach John Stevens was replaced in early November of 2018. Tanner Pearson and Jake Muzzin were both subsequently traded during the 2018-19 season and it became clear that the organization would be transitioning into a new strategy. Blake Lizotte, signed as an undrafted free agent in April of 2019, joined Sean Durzi and Carl Grundstrom (both acquired in the trade for Muzzin) as younger players the Kings would look to in the future. The 2019 Draft introduced Alex Turcotte, Tobias Bjornfot, Arthur Kaliyev, Samuel Fagemo, Jordan Spence, Kim Nousiainen and Andre Lee to Southern California hockey. Bjornfot and Kaliyev have both logged more than 100 games in the NHL while Spence, Fagemo and Turcotte are among the next wave of prospects likely to get their NHL opportunity and all three have played games in both the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons.

The following season (2019-20) was cut short due to the COVID-19 virus but before it ended, Tyler Toffoli, Kyle Clifford, Derek Forbort, Alec Martinez, and Jack Campbell were all moved in trades. Coming into the fold were Trevor Moore, Tyler Madden and a parcel of draft picks. The 2020 NHL Draft was the second year in a row that the Kings drafted nine prospects into the organization including Quinton Byfield, drafted 2nd overall. Byfield struggled early in his career with health issues but spent most of the 2022-23 season playing on an effective top line with Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe, a role he is expected to resume in for the 2023-24 season. The final year of the “tear-down stage” was the COVID shortened 2021 campaign. The Kings missed the playoffs for the third straight season and traded Jeff Carter to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a pair of draft picks including the pick used to select Koehn Ziemmer in the 3rd round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images


After missing the playoffs for three seasons (2019-2021), Blake began the climb back up by acquiring proven NHL veterans to fill out the lineup and return his team to the postseason. On July 1st, 2021, the Kings acquired Viktor Arvidsson for a pair of draft picks. At the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, the Kings selected Brandt Clarke eighth overall and strategically moved excess draft picks to target three other players: Francesco Pinelli, Samuel Helenius, and Kirill Kirsanov. The Kings continued that summer by signing veterans Phillip Danault and Alex Edler as free agents. Edler played two seasons for the Kings (2021-2023) while Danault will be in the third season of his six-year contract, serving as one of the team’s alternate captains. TJ Tynan also signed as a free agent in the summer of 2021. In his time with the franchise, he has been named 2021-22 AHL MVP, scored 179 points in 134 AHL games and been named Captain of the Ontario Reign.

The Kings finished the 2021-22 season with 99 points and a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but ultimately fell to the Edmonton Oilers in a hard-fought, seven-game series played without Doughty and Arvidsson. In the summer of 2022, Blake continued adding to his roster by acquiring Kevin Fiala from the Minnesota Wild. The talented forward scored more than a point per game in his first season with the Kings as the team returned to the postseason once again. Phoenix Copley was initially signed as a depth goaltender but wound up playing an important role in the Kings playoff push, posting a record of 24-6-3 in a Kings jersey a season ago. He’ll now battle free agent signings Cam Talbot and David Rittich for the starting role in training camp. During the season, Blake wasn’t shy to make improvements where he saw an opportunity. Trading Jonathan Quick at the trade deadline was a move that divided fans emotionally but unquestionably improved the roster with the addition of goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (who has since signed in Ottawa) and defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov, who re-signed on a two-year contract earlier this summer. Short on cap space and long on a desire for veteran depth, Blake made a flurry of transactions early in the 2023 off-season that saw Trevor Lewis rejoin the club as a depth option as well as a handful of players with NHL experience such as Mikhail Maltsev, Kevin Connauton and Andreas Englund.

The biggest transaction of the off-season was, of course, the trade for center Pierre-Luc Dubois. Dubois was drafted third overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and has six NHL seasons of experience. With the addition of Dubois, the Kings possess some of the league’s strongest depth down the middle of their lineup. It’s not immediately clear who will be joining Dubois on a line or even how many minutes that line might play but Dubois gives the Kings a scoring threat with size to complement the games of Kopitar and Danault, providing a power-play threat as well.

The Kings are now entering the third season in this third new stage in Rob Blake’s tenure. It’s clear the expectations are elevated, and team is built to advance beyond the first round. This may not be how the players line up on a night-to-night basis but for now, heading into training camp, this is how I envision the 2023-24 LA Kings.

Byfield (2020) – Kopitar (2005) – Kempe (2014)
Fiala (2022) – Dubois (2023) – Kaliyev (2019)
Moore (2020) – Danault (2021) – Arvidsson (2021)
Grundstrom (2019) – Lizotte (2019) – Lewis (2023)

Anderson (2017) – Doughty (2008)
Gavrikov (2023) – Roy (2015)
Bjornfot (2019) – Clarke (2021)

Talbot (2023)
Copley (2022)

Of course, projected lineups are simply projected and there will be several battles in training camp that will ultimately shape the opening-night lineup. Camp kicks off tomorrow morning with the rookies hitting the ice at 10 AM, the first step towards the 2023-24 season!

Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

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