Thursday, June 10, 2010

2009-10 Season In Review: Centers

The Kings have a franchise center in Anze Kopitar.  Michal Handzus is the ideal checking line center.  And Brad Richardson is the high-energy type that slots perfectly in the bottom-six.  The Kings have a huge gap to fill at the center position on the second-line.  Jarret Stoll has been far too inconsistent for him to be the #2 center on a Kings team that many think are on the brink of being in serious contention for a Cup run.  With that said, prospects like Brayden Schenn and Andrei Loktionov both made their NHL-debuts this season and could be NHL-regulars as early as 2010-11.  Read the profiles after the jump...
Anze Kopitar 
Projection: 82 GP, 36 G, 50 A, 86 PTS, 34 PPP, 28 PIM 
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 34 G, 47 A, 81 PTS, 38 PPP, 16 PIM
Kopi is quickly developing into one of the game’s best players.  He started the season off with a bang with 21 points in 14 games in October.  His instant chemistry with Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams made the Kings top-line one of the most dangerous in the NHL.  Injuries to his linemates during the season affected Kopitar’s overall numbers but he still set career highs across the board.  Kopi made strides with his defensive play last season and he’s becoming a true franchise center.

FINAL GRADE: A; With Kopitar upfront and Doughty on the backend; the Kings have two huge building blocks.  Both are franchise players that are turning the fortunes of this franchise.  Kopitar is only scratching the surface of his talent.  If the Kings are able to pair him with some legit first-line wingers in the next few seasons; Kopi will flirt with 100 points for years to come. 

Jarret Stoll
Projection: 72 GP, 17 G, 27 A, 44 PTS, 19 PPP, 56 PIM
2009-10 Stats: 73 GP, 16 G, 31 A, 47 PTS, 21 PPP, 13 PIM
You know exactly what you’re getting with Stollie:  a good faceoff guy, a decent point-shot on the PP and a decent skater in his own end.  He added a bit more grit to his game, which is something I didn’t expect to see.  Stoll’s play was far too inconsistent for the coaching staff to rely on him as the team’s #2 center.  He played anywhere from the second to the fourth-line. 

FINAL GRADE: B-; The grade has far more to do with the fact that Stoll is slotted as the Kings #2 center.  47 points from your second-line center for this team just isn’t enough.  With high-end prospects like Brayden Schenn and Andrei Loktionov knocking on the door; Stoll’s $3.6 million cap and role on the team could be in serious jeopardy.

Michal Handzus
Projection: 82 GP, 16 G, 29 A, 45 PTS, 17 PPP, 36 PIM
2009-10 Stats: 81 GP, 20 G, 22 A, 42 PTS, 10 PPP, 38 PIM
After taking a lot of abuse from fans after his first-season in Los Angeles for his lack of production, Zeus has bounced back with consecutive 42-point seasons.  He’s the Kings most valuable penalty-killing forward and makes players better around him on the Kings checking-line.  His willingness to block shots and do the little things has helped this team develop the right way.  He was arguably the Kings best forward in the postseason with three goals and two assists.

FINAL GRADE: B+; Zeus will be a UFA following this season.  He’s still only 33 years old.  But at a $4 million cap hit; and many of the Kings young players looking for raises in the next few off-seasons; it’s tough to read whether or not the Kings can afford to bring Zeus back at such a high-cap number.  There’s no doubt he’s been a key piece in the development of this team.

Brad Richardson
Projection: 31 GP, 4 G, 4 A, 8 PTS, 0 PPP, 14 PIM
2009-10 Stats: 81 GP, 11 G, 16 A, 27 PTS, 0 PPP, 37 PIM
FINAL GRADE: B; A lot of Kings fans were left scratching their heads when Dean Lombardi dealt one of his coveted 2nd round picks to Colorado for Richardson. After the 2008-09 season, Richie looked like a younger, less-skilled version of Brian Willsie.  A league-average player that could spend the rest of his years in the AHL/ECHL without anyone noticing.  And then really out of nowhere, came this energy.  This constant high-energy from Richie.  And Kings fans and the coaching staff took notice.  Gave him more ice-time.  Gave him time on the penalty kill and he thrived.  He's got jump, decent hands and is a pest on the forecheck.  He was a nice compliment to Handzus and Modin on the third-line with his speed.

Scott Parse
Projection: N/A
2009-10 Stats: 59 GP, 11 G, 13 A, 24 PTS, 0 PPP, 22 PIM

Oscar Moller
Projection: N/A
2009-10 Stats: 34 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 7 PTS, 2 PPP, 4 PIM
FINAL GRADE: INCOMPLETE; There’s been rumors floated about that Dean Lombardi isn’t a huge fan of Oscar.  I personally love the grit and determination that he showed this season.  Unfortunately for Moller; he had a bad camp and started the season in Manchester.  When he was called up;  Oscar played almost exclusively on the Kings fourth-line and averaged well-below ten minutes per game.  His 33 points in 43 games in Manchester shows what type of offensive numbers he’s capable of when given the ice-time.  It’ll be completely up to Oscar at training camp to earn a spot on the team out of camp.

Jeff Halpern
Projection: N/A
2009-10 Stats: 16 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 PTS, 0 PPP, 12 PIM           
FINAL GRADE: C-; Halpern didn't fit in right away and was healthy scratched but he showed in the postseason that he's a responsible forward in his own end and a decent penalty killer.  With Kopitar, Handzus and Stoll locked-in; Halpern would have to settle into the fourth-line center role which is probably something neither he nor the Kings would probably want moving forward. 

  • Corey Elkins didn’t at all look out of place during his three-game stint with the Kings.  His 43 points in 73 games for Manchester opened up some eyes.
  • Trevor Lewis didn’t notch a point in five games with the Kings this year. His nine points in 14 playoff games for the Monarchs is encouraging.  This camp could be a make or break year for Lewis; could be Handzus replacement going forward.
  • No one was more excited for Andrei Loktionov’s NHL debut in Edmonton more than I.  Unfortunately, a freak separated shoulder injury derailed his debut and season.  But his high-end offensive skill is something the Kings need more of in their system.
  • Brayden Schenn’s NHL debut was uneventful but Kings fans are excited about the possibility of seeing him in a Kings jersey as early as next season.  If he can earn himself the Kings #2 center job; Schenn stays.  Otherwise, he’s most likely headed back to Brandon.

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