Kings show organizational depth amid injury streak

The Los Angeles Kings have surprised this season. After several seasons at the bottom of the league, the team proved they were a serious threat to make the playoffs. However, a recent spate of injuries left many doubting whether the team would be able to pull off the feat. Here’s a breakdown of how organizational depth allowed the Kings to succeed despite losing many players to injury.

The Wounded Kings

Until early March, the Kings were having a relatively healthy season, given the nature of the game of hockey. The most notable injury came early in the season when star defender Drew Doughty suffered a hypertensive knee and missed five weeks. Veteran Alexander Edler and rookie Quinton Byfield has missed a lot of time with broken ankles and Sean Walker will miss the rest of the season with torn ligaments in his knee. Although difficult, the team managed to overcome these injuries and win important hockey games.

As the team prepared for one final push for the playoffs, the injury bug hit and it hit hard. Forwards Andreas Athanasiou, Brendan Lemieux, Dustin Brown and Blake Lizotte are all currently out. Viktor Arvidsson, who scored a hat trick in the Kings’ comeback against the Columbus Blue Jackets, suffered an upper-body injury and missed two weeks. It was all part of a five-game stretch where the team lost six starters.

Viktor Arvidsson, Los Angeles Kings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The defense was even harder hit. In addition to long-term injuries to Edler and Walker, the Kings lost Matt Roy, Mikey Anderson and Drew Doughty. Tobias Björnfot was injured late in the Kings’ shootout victory over the Florida Panthers and, although he has since returned, the team has played a stint without a single one of the defensemen they opened the season with . In what should have been an extremely difficult time, the Kings continued to build on their momentum and remain firmly in the playoff picture.

Organizational depth

Not too long ago, the Kings had a depleted prospect pool, an aging squad and few plans for the future. Trading beloved members from their Stanley Cup days for assets and hoarding top talent through the draft has proven to be a winning strategy. These recent injuries have brought a silver lining: they have allowed some of the Kings’ young prospects to show their talents.

Related: Kempe’s breakout season is a testament to Kings’ development strategy

As it stands, there are eight injured Kings. The team had to tap into its talent pool with Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League (AHL). While some players such as Martin Frk and Gabriel Vilardi had already spent a lot of time in the NHL, others, like defenseman Jordan Spence, got their first taste of NHL action sooner than expected. These players are rising to the occasion and showing they are ready to take on some of the best teams in the NHL.

The team managed to put together some real character wins. None were as emotional as the Kings’ win over the Florida Panthers. In his first game with the Kings, Frk tied the game with less than a minute left in regulation and the game was capped off with a hard-earned shootout victory. It was veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick’s 700th NHL game.

With so many regulars out of the lineup, veterans who stay healthy are even more important to the team. Throughout their rebuild, the Kings have managed to retain some of their most important core members from the Stanley Cup years and it’s proving to be the right move. As this team begins to integrate their young talents into the roster, there are local veterans who know what it takes to win to show them the way.

The future is now

At the start of this season, no one was quite sure where the Kings would be at this point. Given the recent injury streak, many prospects find themselves in the spotlight and they are rising to the occasion. It’s impressive to watch these young players continually play solid hockey and win in close games. As the team begins to pick up some men, it may be difficult for coach Todd McLellan to remove some of the kids from the roster due to their outstanding play.

The Kings believe they can win. Even when they fall behind, the team’s conviction and confidence is unwavering and impressive. The prospects arriving from Ontario are proving that they are ready to play in the NHL and, in the coming seasons, they will continue to develop. But, for now, the future has arrived and it looks pretty promising for the Los Angeles Kings as they continue to push for the playoffs.

Aubrey L. Morgan