Long-time readers know that in the summer of 2005 I was strongly pushing all keeper league owners to scoop up as many Penguins as possible, because by 2007 it would be almost impossible to land one. Especially if your keeper league carries a second competition for the playoffs (as mine do).
Well, here we are in August of 2007 and acquiring Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin is a pipedream at this point. Landing a Ryan Whitney or a Marc-Andre Fleury is, while still possible, requiring a ton of assets in return. Two years ago you could have drafted them or had them for a song.
There is a new team to stick on your fantasy radar this summer and while the Los Angeles Kings are a Crosby and Malkin short, they still have the makings of an offensive dynasty.
We have already seen Anze Kopitar’s impressive freshman campaign in which he notched 61 points in 72 games – and he doesn’t even turn 20 for another three weeks. Alexander Frolov, still just 25, showed a glimmer of his potential with his 71-point campaign. Michael Cammalleri, proved that his AHL dominance was no fluke with his 80-point NHL performance.
These guys are just the tip of the iceberg here, folks. And with the summer signings of Ladislav Nagy, Michal Handzus, Kyle Calder and Brad Stuart, this team will be a top six or seven team in the league in terms of goals for. That’s not why the Kings are a team to watch, though. After all – Nagy and Stuart are on one-year deals and Calder is signed for two, so they will be long gone before things really start rolling. But it is nice to get some immediate return on your fantasy investment.
No, I’m talking about the future of the Kings. Besides Kopitar, Frolov, Handzus and Cammalleri, you can already see defensemen Jack Johnson and Lubomir Visnovsky this season. Patrick O’Sullivan is a future star who will develop on the third line and hard-hitting Dustin Brown is improving every season en route to becoming a perennial 75-point producer. These are the core guys you can see now, but wait until you get a load of what is coming down the pipeline.
Let’s start with their current weakness – goaltending. Dan Cloutier, Jason Labarbera and Erik Enstrom are stopgaps. I mean no disrespect to Labarbera, who is only 27 and who dominated the American League last year, but he won’t be the answer for this team.
Jonathan Bernier will be.
The 11th-overall pick in 2006 is being looked upon as the Kings’ goaltender of the future and he should get strong consideration for the starting role in the 2009-10 season. That was about the age when Fleury became the No.1 guy in Pittsburgh.
The timing will work out perfect. By then, Frolov will have ironed out his consistency and start putting up 80-point seasons with regularity, Kopitar will be 90-point star (am I being too conservative?), Cammalleri will be a 40-goal scorer, Brown will be a 35-goal scorer and O’Sullivan will be starting to break out (could be 70 points, could be 90 points – difficult to pin down his upside at this point in his young career). Johnson will have two full seasons under his belt and will team up with Visnovsky to become a formidable power-play duo.
Wait – there’s more.
Trevor Lewis will enter the NHL by then, gradually developing into a No.2 center and forcing O’Sullivan to play left wing (a likely scenario even now). Brian Boyle, a 6-7 talented center, is now being trained as a defenseman in hopes of developing their own Zdeno Chara. Lauri Tukonen will likely be in his sophomore year come 2009-10 and he will be the perfect third liner – a tenacious checker with the hockey sense to create some offense. Finally – Marc-Andre Cliche will be a first or second-year player who is a leader in the dressing room and adds all the intangibles that a good team needs.
These are all top prospects who will hit their stride in 2009-10 and it would be wise to start stocking up on this team while you still can for cheap.