The Los Angeles Kings, once a storied franchise built upon success and legendary players has since been knocked down a few pegs. The Great Western Forum housed legends like Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Marcell Dionne, Dave Taylor, and Luc Robatille as they attacked the playoffs from the late 1960s through the late 1990s. But, as of late, the Staples Center has barely seen a lick of the playoffs, in the last decade the Kings have only qualified three times and the past three seasons the Kings have played just under .500, leaving the Los Angeles faithful little to cheer about on the ice.

But, with an influx of youthful talent from numerous first round picks and trades to pick up useful veterans, the Los Angeles Kings are looking to bring the once storied tradition of winning to back to Los Angeles.

Let’s start by looking at the impact Forwards on the Kings:

Anze Kopitar:  The heart of the Kings rebuilding process begins and ends with Anze Kopitar. Anze was selected in the 2005 NHL entry draft. The only reason he slipped to number 11 was because 2005’s entry draft was the year Sidney Crosby was drafted number one and Anaheim’s phenomenal Bobby Ryan was selected second. It was also the year that the highly touted goaltender Carey Price was selected to be the goaltending savior of the Montreal Canadiens with the fifth pick and San Jose’s breakout rookie Devin Setoguchi was selected number eight. Among such an established list it’s easy to see how Anze could slip to the eleventh pick. Anze has all the tangibles to become an elite player, the way he handles the puck is phenomenal and his vision on the ice seems to be another obvious strength. Kopitar can easily set up just about any member of the Kings at any given time around the net. The problem has been, however, that the Kings haven’t really put anyone around him to make use of that. At times Anze has really no choice but to be a bit of a puck hog. Anze has amazing skating ability, however, one thing that management has challenged and called him out on is how in shape he is. It had become quite common knowledge that Anze loves pancakes that were less than stellar for his physique. But, if he can answer the challenge and continue to grow around the young guns the Kings are putting around him then expect to hear Kopitar’s name a lot more around the NHL.

Dustin Brown: The Captain of the Los Angeles Kings, Dustin Brown.  At 6’0” and 207 pounds, Dustin Brown is a grindy right wing that isn’t afraid to get in your face and check you into next Tuesday. Dustin gets a lot of power play time and takes a lot of shots but he tends to be a little streaky when it comes to point production. When Anze is on the ice, Brown usually crashes hard to the net and uses his physical style to either deflect a shot or screen for an outside shot. Considering how much he likes to really bash people into the boards and sometimes get into a scuff or two, he doesn’t get THAT many penalty minutes. This of course could be contributed to his wife who said, during an interview before a game, that “She hated seeing him fight and wish he wouldn’t do it as much”.

Alexander Frolov: Lead the Kings with 32 goals and 12 power play goals last season while being paired with Anze Kopitar. While Frolov continues to put up very solid numbers, these numbers have been declining over the past two or three years and he isn’t getting any younger. Kings General Manager, Dean Lombardi, has been quoted as saying that despite having 32 goals last season he does expect more from veteran Alexander Frolov. However, until he gets more prime ice time with Kopitar there is only so much he can do, with his skills giving him more ice time would seem like the last problem he’d have. He has the size, speed, and skill to be a truly great player…yet he just passed the 30 goal marker last season, mostly due to not getting enough game time with the King’s top line. IF Alexander Frolov can meet the lofty expectations that have been put on him and have a truly breakout season then he could very well be the catalyst the Kings need  to make their first playoff appearance since the 2001-2002 season.

Justin Williams: Remember the breakout season the Carolina Hurricanes had when they won the Stanley Cup? A big part of that was this guy, Justin Williams. A skilled winger, Justin Williams has unfortunately bumped heads with the injury bug a few too many times over the past two seasons. However, if Williams can stay healthy and can get some time on Kopitar’s line then dangerous things can and will happen. Has an accurate wrist shot and a brutal backhand, again, if Williams stays healthy and gets back into form then look out because he is capable of being one of the elite among the NHL.

Ryan Smyth: The Kings newest acquisition from the Colorado Avalanche is veteran Ryan Smyth. A gritty hard-nosed left wing that is never afraid to push, claw, and drag his way to a prime spot in front of the net. He isn’t going to score hundred of goals but he is going to play his heart out every single game and fight his way to the net for every goal, assist, and attempt he can get. One problem, however, is with how gritty and tough Smyth is, he tends to get injured a little more often than most like. IF he is on the ice, 100% or not, he is a valuable asset to any team

Jarret Stoll: Capable of playing both center and point on the powerplay, Jarret Stoll has been a dangerous weapon. However, ever since sustaining a concussion in the 2007 season his numbers just haven’t been the same. His numbers are still very solid but they have been dipping steadily since the time of his concussion and one has to wonder just how much that is affecting his play and how much longer he can play with it. Yes, the same Jarret Stoll that dumped Rachel Hunter.

Wayne Simmonds: One of the few African American players that isn’t a goon that is only around to pick fights. Has solid offensive skills and will hit just about anything that tries to get in his way. However, standing at 6’1” he only weighs about 181 pounds and when you want to hit as much as he does you kinda need to bulk up a tad. His work ethic in practice is said to be quite incredible and his ability to backcheck and help out defensively make him a solid second or third liner.

Brayden Schenn: The newest draft pick of the Kings and one I am personally looking very forward to. Brother of Toronto Maple Leaf defenseman, Luke Schenn, Brayden is somewhat of the polar opposite of his brother. He is an offensive powerhouse with scouts touting that he has pretty much every tangible you could ask for in an offensive player. He is also a great leader, he always stands up for his players and will really battle along the boards and the areas some of the younger guys are afraid of fighting in. Speaking of fighting, considering his offensive prowess he doesn’t mind dropping the gloves and getting into it when he needs to. When I first heard this about him there was another name that came to my mind, Iginla. I know it’s a leap to go off of just scouting reports, but from what has been said so far he sounds very similar to the standout captain of the Calgary Flames. However, having not played an NHL game and maybe still needing a year in Juniors he has plenty of time to become the shining star a lot of King’s fans are expecting.

Overall: The forwards are solid and have some young breakout talent along with some veteran savvy that should make for an effective mix of young and old. Kopitar is going to be the focal point of the offense and anyone paired with him on a regular basis, most of the time probably Brown and I’m hoping Frolov gets more time with him along with veterans like Smyth. However, there aren’t any finesse “Face of the Franchise” players to really get the team skyrocketed into upper-echelon position. I think with all the additions to the offense they are a group of forwards that can get to the playoffs and maybe get to the second round if they’re lucky.

Now, onto one of the brightest spots on the Los Angeles Kings…the young core of super talented impact defensemen.

Drew Doughty:  A wonderful young defenseman with quick feet and he plays the point very well. He is a little offensively minded so he’ll probably see a lot of time on the power play when Kopitar isn’t quarterbacking it. Has a pretty heavy shot that he likes to use, but most defensemen who excel at playing the point have that. He does tend to drive into the offensive zone sometimes, like a forward, but with his speed he has the ability to make up for it and get back if he doesn’t score when driving to the net. His OHL coach, Dave Barr of the Guelph Storm, compared him to Ray Bourque.

Jack Johnson:  At 6’1” 225 Pounds, Jack Johnson has excellent size for a defensemen and he has no qualms about using it to his advantage. But, the problem with that is he’ll sometimes take himself out of a play because he is trying to set up a HUGE hit. If that hit misses then he’s pretty much screwed and puts the rest of the team in a bit of a sticky situation. Has good instincts on where to put the puck and where his teammates are going to be so if he can keep in position and not always try to land a mindblowing hit then that would be much better for him overall.

Rob Scuderi: Isn’t the biggest defensemen you’ll see, at 30 years old, but he’s been around and is a crafty veteran that finds a way to get the job done. Chances are he won’t be on the starting defensive pairing, but come late in the game when you need a solid defensemen then this is your man for sure.

Overall: The defensive core is young with the exception of two guys over the age of 30 and they have a lot of potential. However, they are very offensive minded and sometime you need a stay at home defenseman that your offensive core can feel safer with so they can be a little reckless. Supposedly, Scuderi is going to pair with Jack Johnson which should be good because Scuderi is a bit more stay at home while Johnson tends to be a little reckless with the hitting. There is a lot of promise for the defense pairings on the Kings.

Now, the weak point of the Kings, the goaltending core.

Erik Ersberg: He bloomed into a decent starter at the beginning of last year, but he was still really inconsistent and couldn’t seem to string too many quality starts together. He is also one of the smaller NHL goalies, so that’s just another thing working against him. Injuries sidelined him for a good portion of last season when he started to really get into a groove and find somewhat of a stride and connection with the rest of the young team.

Jonathan Quick: Saw a lot of starting time last season because of injury to Ersberg. While he is quick in the crease, as his name implies, he tends to give up a lot of untimely goals that just kill any momentum the young guns in front of him created. If he wants to stay on the team he really needs to become more clutch. Too many gamebreaker goals for all the decent stops he makes, some people like him and think he had a decent enough few starts to get the job, but I’ll take my chances with Ersberg and Bernier.

Jonathan Bernier: The King’s great hope in goaltending. Has performed stellar in the Kings Manchester organization and has shown that he can more than hold the fort if given a lead and sometimes even completely steal the show if his team is having an off night. The only question that really remains is if he can handle the NHL caliber players or not.

Overall: Please bring in Bernier if he is ready, if not, however, then leave him in Manchester until he is ready. He has shown that he has star potential so rushing him into the starter position too soon would be a costly mistake that could cost the young future of the Kings dearly. While Ersberg and Quick have shown bursts of potential, they have also shown that they are not capable of taking the Kings to the playoffs…yet.

Team Overall: Very young and very talented, the Kings have a very good chance to make the playoffs this season and go as far as the second round, but probably not past that. They could really use a franchise player like a Saku Koivu, Joe Thornton, Sheldon Souray, or a Ryan Getzlaf just to name a few. When their young stars start to really grow up, assuming Lombardi can keep them all together, you’ll see a young team grow into a very talented team. If they can make the playoffs it will be such a valuable experience for the young team because playoff hockey tends to make young players grow into mature players. It makes you realize how to win under immense pressure and what really needs to be done on a game to game basis. So, I’m looking forward to the Kings this season. Their young core is going to surprise a lot of people and I do believe they are playoff bound.