The Future is Bright on the Kings Blue Line

Michael Amato

2013-05-19

USATSI 7268616

 

Between Doughty, Muzzin and Voynov; the Kings’ young defenders hold promise for the organization, and for fantasy owners.

 

Coming off a year when you win a Stanley Cup, there can tend to be somewhat of a letdown from a team. The challenge of re-signing many key contributors and having the same ambition you had a year prior, are not easy things to accomplish. The Los Angeles Kings, however, have avoided falling into that trap. They finished in fifth spot this year in the Western Conference, as opposed to eighth spot in 2011-12, and survived a gruelling opening round series with the St. Louis Blues.

 

 

A big reason the Kings have remained a Cup contender, other than strong goaltending and a solid forward group, is the emergence of some young defensemen. When you think of defense and Los Angeles, the first thing that has to come to mind is Drew Doughty. If you own Doughty in your hockey pool you would probably point out that his numbers are sliding. With only 36 points last year and a 38 point pace this season, you would be right. He might never again produce a near 60 point campaign, but his contributions to the Kings right now are at an all-time. He is playing heavy minutes and on most nights against the opposition's best. Doughty's play in the post-season has LA poised for another lengthy run, and his drop in points is just something poolies are going to have to live with.

 

Luckily for the Kings and hockey pool aficionados, some other Los Angeles players have picked up the slack, namely Slava Voynov and Jake Muzzin. The pair had been flying under the radar for a while, but with their play this season that isn't going to last long. Muzzin was taken in the fifth round of the 2007 Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins and after he went unsigned by the team, the Kings took a chance on him and inked him to a deal. Voynov was a second round pick in 2008 by Los Angeles and has slowly but surely developed into a difference maker.

 

What has to excite you about Voynov as an owner or a Kings fan is just how many things he does well. He led Kings defensemen in total points in 2013 with 25, and that works out to a 43 point campaign over 82 games. Not only that, but Voynov was Los Angeles' most consistent D man, recording points in almost 40% of his games. He also finished as a plus-5 and ranked second on team in blocked shots.

 

Those are some raw numbers about Voynov's game, but there are a few other things that should illustrate that he has the chance to continue this type of production going forward. The first would be his ability to adapt, for a young player. Voynov played most of 2011-12 with Willie Mitchell as his defensive partner. This season, because of an injury to Mitchell, Voynov was forced to play the majority of his time with Rob Scuderi. Of course both are similar players, but learning the habits of a new defensive partner is always tricky for an inexperienced player.

 

Voynov also finished tied for third on the squad in a category that doesn't typically get a lot of attention; secondary assists. I'm a fan of secondary assists for a couple of reasons. The obvious one is that they are cheap points from a poolie's perspective, but there can be a method to their madness as well. When a de