2024 Kings Seasons In Review – AHL / NHL Split

A few different groups of “younger players” to evaluate here in the group that split time between the NHL and AHL this season.

First is the trio of Brandt Clarke, Akil Thomas and Alex Turcotte. A group that spent some time with the big club at various points in the season but also a trio that formed part of the nucleus of an Ontario Reign team that won two playoff series and advanced into Round 3. Three players who were complemented during end of season interviews, with an eye towards the future. There are no locks, but three guys who will certainly be in the NHL picture heading into next season.

“The three of them that we saw up here at times, Clarke, Turcotte and Thomas,” General Manager Rob Blake said when asked which young players are ready to make the jump to the NHL. “They’ve continued to push and make strides there and I think they can come in and help us here.”

Alex Turcotte
NHL Statline – 20 games played, 1 goal, 3 assists, +5 rating, 6 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 35 games played, 10 goals, 19 assists, +8 rating, 12 penalty minutes

Going to start here with a portion of a quote that Turcotte gave following Ontario’s elimination in Round 3 of the postseason.

“I know it’s been my best year as a pro, so that’s obviously the right step. It’s the most games I’ve played too, so I was fairly healthy which I’m happy about.”

Turcotte played 55 games between the Kings and the Reign this season, a new career high. He also set career highs in goals, assists and points. He played his longest stretch up with the Kings and scored his first-career NHL goal back in January. He also set career highs in Ontario, playing as an impact player with the AHL club, throughout the regular season and into the playoffs.

In speaking with Turcotte, he felt that he started to value more of the things that can help him succeed in the NHL. The things that go beyond the scoring. Those things also made him more of an impact, two-way player with the Reign.

In the NHL, Turcotte was on the ice for nine goals for and four goals against. The Kings controlled more than 55 percent of shots on goal with Turcotte on the ice at even strength and over 53 percent in most other categories. The eye test showed a player who brought a ton of energy and versatility though without a ton of end product, one dominant evening in Nashville aside.

The negatives, if you will, include a late-season injury that prevented Turcotte from playing throughout the stretch run as the Kings pushed towards the playoffs. Were he in the lineup, that would have been great experience for him to take into the offseason. The other side of it is a player who showed some flashes of being NHL-ready but did not cement a spot in the lineup with the Kings. When push came to shove, Turcotte was re-assigned to the AHL to play a larger role with Ontario. I thought there were a couple of big steps forward from Turcotte this season but not enough to say he’s firmly planted in where he needs to be. Still a lot more to be proven as he looks to solidify himself as a full-time NHL player. Closer than when we started the season, though, and there is something to be said for that.

2023-24 Status – For the first time at the professional level, Turcotte is a free agent. His three-year, entry-level contract comes to an end here at the conclusion of this season and he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer.

Turcotte is a player who certainly appears to be in line for a new contract. Exactly where he winds up will be interesting. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him land something similar to the contract Tobias Bjornfot signed last season, which carried two years at the league minimum in terms of salary-cap hit on a one-way contract. It puts the player in a stronger position to make the NHL roster, while also guaranteeing a one-way salary, but sacrifices the upside a two-way deal with a higher NHL salary could command. We’ll see where he comes in.

Akil Thomas
NHL Statline – 7 games played, 3 goals, 1 assist, even rating, 2 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 64 games played, 22 goals, 24 assists, +3 rating, 41 penalty minutes

Unlike Turcotte, we saw a smaller glimpes of Thomas with the NHL club – seven games, all in the month of April.

Thomas certainly made an impact when he was in the lineup. He scored in his second career NHL game and buried three goals in his first five games with the Kings. He added an assist in the following game and ultimately finished the season with four points from seven games played. It’s the eye test and the production that supports the case for a very successful late-season cameo.

Like Turcotte, Thomas spoke about beginning to value those others areas of the game more this season than he did in past seasons. That showed when he got to the NHL, as a guy who killed penalties, who played the game responsibily and showed he can be productive lower in the lineup. It was also a part of Thomas being an evolving leader with the Ontario Reign. He wore an “A” this season with the AHL club and not only did he continue to develop as a prospect but he was also a young leader with an Ontario team that had a nice season.

With the Kings, we saw a player who played hard, who played responsibly, but also brought an element of sandpaper to his game, with a willingness to forecheck and play the body early and often. That resonated well internally. Thomas was among the team leaders in terms of shots on goal and scoring chances generated on a per/60 basis. Naturally, three goals from seven games played will sit you atop the goals per/60 category, but that’s not exactly a reliable sample size.

On the contrary, Thomas’ on-ice metrics over seven games presented a very low-event player. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for someone who generally played on the fourth line, but the metrics didn’t necessarily match the actual. It’s seven games, so personally I’d put more stock into what we saw than what the metrics said. As Thomas, ideally, becomes an NHL regular, those types of numbers will begin to carry more weight as it comes to evaluation.

2023-24 Status – Like Turcotte, Thomas is a free agent this summer. He was qualified and eventually signed a one-year contract extension this past summer to keep him with the Kings. On the heels of his NHL debut, with waivers in play next season, Thomas should have more of an opportunity to earn a spot with the big club coming out of camp than he ever had to date. Like Turcotte, a lower NHL cap hit with a higher guarantee could be mutually beneficial for both player and team.

It will be interesting to see how a guy like Thomas plays over an extended sample. He brought an exciting style of hockey and one that stood out over seven games. It’s much harder to deliver at that level over 82 games, throughout the grind of going through an NHL season for the first time. He’ll have the opportunity in camp to prove he’s earned the chance to do that and if he does in fact make the Kings out of camp, he will have to continue to play that style of hockey consistently and effectively to stay there.

Brandt Clarke
NHL Statline – 16 games played, 2 goals, 4 assists, -6 rating, 10 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 50 games played, 10 goals, 36 assists, -3 rating, 49 penalty minutes

Brandt Clarke’s first full season as a professional should in many ways be what we expected it to be.

We saw some impressive moments and impressive flashes. Both of his NHL goals were highlight-reel tallies. While his role on many nights was limited, Clarke displayed many of the qualities we know he possesses. They were regularly on display in the AHL as well as he scored at nearly a point-per-game pace. Clarke was selected to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team, hge was named as an AHL Second-Team All-Star and was selected to represent the Reign at the 2024 AHL All-Star Classic.

With Clarke, there’s also the defensive side of the puck, in which he continues to make strides. He grew a lot this season in the AHL, playing big minutes in an increasingly larger role. The NHL is a difficult league to learn in and it was clear that full trust for the defensive side of game wasn’t there at the NHL level, though there’s positive signs with regards for Clarke’s trajectory.

“The poise he plays with and the offensive aspect of it, I think is something we can use,” Blake said. “He’s increased his defensive play, for the most part, throughout the season.”

The numbers from Clarke’s limited NHL sample size support exactly what the prevailing narrative is. At 5-on-5, no Kings defenseman was on the ice for more high-danger chances for, or had more individual scoring chances for, than Clarke on a per/60 basis. Alternatively, no Kings defenseman was on the ice for more goals against or more high-danger chances against than Clarke was this season.

The good outweighed the bad, though, and the good merits a longer look going forward. There were a lot of reasons thrown out there as to why that role didn’t come with the Kings this season. It certainly wasn’t about his bonuses……it wasn’t really about a ton to do with Clarke at all. In the moment, in the situation they were in, the Kings felt most comfortable sticking with three RHD and three LHD, preferring the defensively trusted players to the riskier and inexperienced Clarke in pivotal games down the stretch. The Kings had a playoff mandate and, whether you agree or not, went with the players they felt got them there. Clarke played an expansive role in Ontario and thrived there. The next step is translating that into a more regular NHL role going forward.

2023-24 Status – Clarke is under contract for two more seasons with the Kings on his entry-level contract, which makes him that much more appealing for a team looking to find contributors on lower cap hits.

All signs point towards a player who is ready to make the jump to the NHL on a more regular basis. He’s earned the opportunity to play with the Kings on a more regular basis, in a more regular role. At times last season he was the seventh defenseman with LA and he excelled there. To truly assess where Clarke is at, though, he needs the chance to play an extended stretch of games as a regular in the lineup. It’s really not fair to evaluate him until he’s had that chance. He’s earned the opportunity to fail and not be scratched as a result. He’s earned the opportunity to succeed and elevate. Lots to suggest he will get that next season and there’s a lot of excitement around a player who feels ready for that opportunity.

Jacob Moverare
NHL Statline – 24 games played, 1 goal, 0 assists, even rating, 6 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 34 games played, 2 goals, 16 assists, +16 rating, 12 penalty minutes

If we’re comparing Moverare to Clarke, you’ve got two defensemen who might complement each other well but bring just about the opposite in terms of on-ice styles.

With Moverare, you know what you’re going to get. He’s a stay-at-home player who values the defensive zone and contributes in that way. He’s not going to be mistaken for creating offensively in the way that Clarke did, though his first career NHL goal sparked one of the biggest celebrations from his teammates this season. Moverare knows who he is and he plays to it.

With that being said, Moverare at times was asked to fill a role that was perhaps he wasn’t ready for. When Mikey Anderson was out, Moverare was tasked with playing alongside Drew Doughty for long stretches. With that comes more minutes against top offensive players.

His numbers alongside Doughty were all below the 50-percent mark in terms of percentage of shot attempts, scoring chances and high-danger chances controlled. Despite it all, though, the duo allowed just three goals at 5-on-5 in 104 minutes together. When he played on the second or third pairing, his on-ice totals showed nearly 10 shot attempts against fewer on a per/60 basis, not to mention three fewer scoring chances and close to two fewer high-danger chances. When slotted properly, Moverare was an effective defenseman for the Kings, while showing the ability to hold his own defensively in a higher role when needed.

Moverare is who he is and he knows who he is. Having guys like that in the picture isn’t a bad thing at all.

2023-24 Status – As a result of his reliability, Moverare inked a two-year contract extension in March, carrying a league-minimum cap hit for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 NHL seasons.

Moverare is in an interesting place in his process. He’s shown that he’s been more than capable of playing as a bottom-pairing defenseman in the NHL, while holding his own when filling in higher in the lineup, even if that’s not his long-term home. Moverare will be 26 when next season starts and he’s comfortable as a part of the NHL group. Whether he’s utilized as a regular defenseman, or perhaps the team’s extra defenseman, there’s not a ton of worry in having Moverare around. He brings what he brings and that’s a good guy to have in the mix, regardless of where he winds up.

Samuel Fagemo
NHL Statline – 4 games played, 0 goals, 0 assists, -1 rating, 0 penalty minutes
AHL Statline – 50 games played, 43 goals, 19 assists, +10 rating, 26 penalty minutes

There was no more prolific goalscorer in the AHL this season. There hasn’t been a more prolific goalscorer in the AHL in recent memory. 43 goals from 50 games played is ridiculous at that level. 19 of those goals came on the power play, as Fagemo manned the left side of the umbrella for the top unit in Ontario. With the Reign, Fagemo established himself as a proven goalscorer and there’s not a ton more he can really do to prove himself in the AHL.

At the NHL level, it was another season with cups of coffee but not the breakthrough he’s been hoping for. Fagemo was claimed off waivers by Nashville during training camp and scored in his first game with the Predators, one of four games he played there in total. He was eventually placed back on waivers and re-claimed by the Kings, where he skated in an additional four NHL games. In just two of his eight games in total did Fagemo crack 10 minutes in total time on ice. He had some power-play time, but with the Kings, he was used on the power play in just one game and it was a 5-1 loss in Colorado.

Therein lies the ultimate summary of Fagemo’s season.

With the Reign, where he played the bulk of his games, Fagemo was as productive as he could have been. I mean, 43 goals from 50 games. 43 goals from 50 games. No one does that. At the AHL level, Fagemo was the most prolific goalscorer in the league. He has yet to translate that production to the NHL level, though. With the Kings, he played lower in the lineup and did not score from four games played. He’s got three goals from 21 career NHL games, but he hasn’t exactly been utilized consistently in a role that meshes with a goalscorer. Catch 22 I suppose. Can’t be upset at all with the season Fagemo produced, but he’s certainly approaching a point of where his NHL window has to open sooner rather than later, if it’s going to.

2023-24 Status – Fagemo is one of several restricted free agents the Kings have this summer, his second restricted free agency as a professional player.

Fagemo scored 43 goals from 50 games played with the Ontario Reign this season. That simply doesn’t happen. He’s also scored just three goals from 21 games played in the NHL, but he’s never played more than nine games in a season at the highest level. This summer represents what is likely a crossroads for Fagemo. He either finds a way to work himself into a more regular role in the NHL or he doesn’t. He’s 25-years-old at the end of the season, which is typically the end of a prospect’s timeline as a prospect. Fagemo should get another chance to showcase himself during training camp and he’s at a place where he needs to capitalize on that opportunity in order to try and translate impressive AHL production to the NHL.

Lots of rumors swirling in LA Kings social media, Insiders. Those will be resolved in due time and we’ll have full coverage here when they ultimately do.

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