2018 Los Angeles Kings Predictions with Futures Odds and Expert Picks
What I am about to write about the Kings is very similar to what I have written about seven or eight other Western Conference teams - and that is what makes this conference both brutally-tough and compelling. The Kings were a playoff team last year, had a solid offseason and are fully capable of being a playoff team this year. But they are not of the caliber of top teams like Winnipeg or Nashville in the conference. Instead, they are in a large group of teams that are playoff ready - far more teams than there are going to be spots. Very good teams are going to miss the playoffs in the West this year, and the Kings being one would only be slightly more surprising than if they were to grab a spot comfortably. They are a very solid team, but that may not be good enough this year. It all comes down to how the cookie crumbles - or how the puck tumbles, I guess.
Los Angeles Kings Offseason Moves
The big move here was obviously the addition of Ilya Kovalchuk, who returns to the NHL after five full seasons at home in the KHL. The guy has 417 career NHL goals, including at least 40 in five different years. And his last two seasons in the KHL were very offensively productive, so he could be a great boost to a team that could use more scoring. But by winning the bidding war for him, the team has added a 35-year-old forward that already includes 33-year-olds Jeff Carter, Dion Phaneuf and Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick at 32, and a trio at 31, including star scorer Anze Kopitar, Alec Martinez and Trevor Lewis. There is youth on this team, too, but that is a lot of old guys in a league that seems to get younger every year. There is no reason it can't all work, and no one guy on that list is a particular red flag, but it certainly tightens the margin for error.
On the contract front, the big move was locking up Drew Doughty for eight years and $88 million. There really was little choice here - he is one of the very best defenders in the league, and that's what guys like him cost. But he turns 29 before Christmas and already has more than 850 career regular and postseason games played, so it is almost certain that the last couple of years of that contract won't look great. But you do what you have to do, and the Kings know how lucky they are to have him.
The rest of the roster moves were just shuffling the decks. This year's top
draft pick, Swedish forward Rasmus Kupari, is going back to Sweden this
year. But last year's first-rounder, 11th choice Gabriel Vilardi, a forward
from the OHL, will be given every chance to make the team and join the
young core this year looking to ease the transition from the old guys.
Los Angeles Kings NHL Outlook
There are young guys to like on this team, but more than any team out there they are relying on their old-timers to carry the water still. On paper this is a good team that could lock down a wild-card spot like last year, or even more. But the older you are the easier you get hurt, and the easier it is to lose a half a step - and that's a ton in this NHL. It feels like this roster was constructed with a lot of optimism - hoping for best-case scenarios and being confident that if they get them then they are going to be dangerous. And while that is true, the downside is that if they don't get them then suddenly they are a team that can't score enough again and which is riding Doughty for 30 minutes a game to hide other issues. This team feels better than at least as many Western contenders than they are worse than, but they also make me more nervous than any of the true contenders for a playoff spot.
Los Angeles Kings Schedule
Five of the team's first eight games are against teams that stand virtually no chance of making the playoff this year - or in the next few years for that matter - Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo and the Islanders. That is a great chance for them to build a little cushion out of the gate in what will be a brutal Pacific Division. The challenge, of course, is that if they fail to they will be in a situation that will be very easy to regret - and which could easily come back to haunt them.
Los Angeles Kings NHL Futures Odds
At +2500 the Kings are tied as the tenth choice to win the Stanley Cup at Bovada along with Edmonton and Philadelphia. That makes them the co-sixth choice in the West. Coming off a season with 98 points last year, the season win total is set at just 92.5. It took 95 points to make the playoffs in the West last year, and that very likely won't be enough this time around. Kopitar is tied with Evgeni Malkin as the 10th choice to win the Hart Trophy as MVP at +1800. Kovalchuk is a long shot - but not long enough - at +5000.
2017-18 Los Angeles Kings Predictions
I would put myself in the cautiously pessimistic camp on this team. I like the team but see too many things that can go wrong. I lean slightly towards them missing the playoffs, but not with great confidence. The season win total feels a little low, though - it's not aligned with the futures odds - so I would lean to the "over" if forced to make a choice.
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