Forward analysis: Part 1

As promised, here is the first-ever Daily News Offseason Roster Analysis. OK, it’s not that official, but it makes it sound that way, doesn’t it? Anyway, it’s just a way to keep track of who’s coming back, who’s (potentially) leaving, who’s improving or getting worse and what the roster might look like next season. I’ll start with the forwards. These are all the guys who played at least one game with the Kings this season and are still on the roster, as of the end of the season. Since there are 19 forwards, I’ll break this down into two parts:

DEREK ARMSTRONG (11 goals, 33 assists in 67 games)
Contract status: Signed through 2008-09
There can be debate about where Armstrong should play, and how many minutes, but there’s no doubt that he’s an important part of this team, particularly in the dressing room. Given all the young forwards on the Kings’ roster, Armstrong is looked at as the elder statesman (even though he’s only 33) and an outstanding dressing-room leader who the kids look up to. The Kings demonstrated their belief in Armstrong when they signed him to a two-year extension in February and prevented him from reaching the free-agent market. He’s never going to have great speed or a great scoring touch, so don’t expect it.

DUSTIN BROWN (17 goals, 29 assists in 81 games)
Contract status: Signed through 2007-08
The biggest statement this season came from coach Marc Crawford, who said he believes Brown can score 30 goals in a season. The way he finished, with four goals in his last nine games, suggests Crawford is correct. It’s two things with Brown: it’s a confidence issue, because he needs to have a better nose for the net and create opportunities for himself, and it’s a product of him being a big hitter. The Kings don’t want him to lose that part of his game, but they need him to add more offensive aggressiveness so that he can develop into the top-six forward that many believe he is.

MICHAEL CAMMALLERI (34 goals, 46 assists in 81 games)
Contract status: Restricted free agent
Given that Cammalleri is on the market this summer (somewhat, as a RFA) he picked a good time for a breakout season. This is probably the year that Cammalleri gets a multi-year deal, and it will be a good test of the Kings’ commitment to him to see how contract negotiations go. Remember, this is a guy who former coach Andy Murray wasn’t sure could be a NHL player, and that was just 18 months ago. Cammalleri had an injury-free year, and that’s important because some questioned whether, at his size, he could ever been a top-level NHL forward.

NOAH CLARKE (2 goals, 0 assists in 13 games)
Contract status: Free agent
This is the third consecutive season that Clarke has gotten a brief look at the NHL, and although he has the potential to be a serviceable winger, it’s probably not going to happen for him in L.A. He turns 28 in June, and although there have certainly been some late bloomers out there (Derek Armstrong) for one, the youth and depth on the Kings’ roster at forward indicates that if Clarke is going to get a chance in the NHL, it’s going to be elsewhere.

ALEXANDER FROLOV (35 goals, 36 assists in 82 games)
Contract status: Signed through 2009-10
Frolov continues to be a riddle wrapped in an enigma. He scored 35 goals yet all the talk about team MVP was between Michael Cammalleri and Lubomir Visnovsky. There’s a reason for that. Even though Frolov had a 35-goal season and didn’t miss a game, he’s still yet to develop the “wow factor” that most thought he would display by now. It’s there at times, and when it is, Frolov is something to see, but that game-to-game consistency is still a bit lacking. In one way, that’s a positive. If he can score 35 goals and still leave people thinking he can do better, maybe better is in store. He still needs to be stronger on the puck.

GABE GAUTHIER (0 goals, 0 assists in 5 games)
Contract status: Signed through 2008-09 (entry-level deal)
Five games isn’t much of an evaluation period, as Jack Johnson supporters will tell you. Can he get better? Sure. Gauthier is only 23 years old, but he has an inherent size disadvantage and he’s not particularly fast. He does have some offensive skill, as he showed at the lower level, but if he ever cracks the lineup it will probably be as a fourth-line guy, and those kind of guys are quite plentiful.

RAITIS IVANANS (4 goals, 4 assists in 66 games)
Contract status: Signed through 2007-08
I’ll say this much about Ivanans. He’s the one guy who, when he walks through the dressing room, I get out of the way, quickly. Ivanans was a good find for the Kings, and they recognized that when they signed him to a one-year extension in March. Ivanans knows his role. He’s a fourth-line guy who will be called upon to drop the gloves, but in this new-era NHL, nobody can be one-dimensional. At times, Ivanans will swoop down to the crease and knock in a goal. He’s a solid guy who fills his role capably.

TIM JACKMAN (0 goals, 0 assists in 5 games)
Contract status: Free agent
In the interest of full disclose, I admit that I’d forgotten Jackman played with the Kings this season, never mind in five games. Hard to say what the future holds for him. He’s a big guy and he has the potential to cause problems for opponents if he evolves into a power forward, but I’m not sure the offense will ever be there.

ANZE KOPITAR (20 goals, 41 assists in 72 games)
Contract status: Signed through 2008-09 (entry-level deal)
The Great Slovenian Hope (at least as far as the Kings are concerned) came through with a strong season, especially considering he was 19 years old and had never played professionally on North American ice. There were times that he was good and times that he was downright dominant. Kopitar is already a top-line forward and will continue to improve, particularly on his work without the puck. Otherwise, it’s a just a matter of smoothing out some rough edges, and the Kings should have themselves a franchise player.

TOM KOSTOPOULOS (7 goals, 15 assists in 76 games)
Contract status: Free agent
The Kings face an interesting situation with Kostopoulos this summer. His offensive potential is limited but he’s beloved in the dressing room. When the Kings took Jack Johnson on his first road trip, Kostopoulos was his roommate. How much is that worth? Kostopoulos will draw offers from other teams, because he’s a responsible, team-first guy, but how much are the Kings going to fight for a seven-goal scorer?

That’s all for now, otherwise this post will be a mile long. Stay tuned for the other half. As always, you’re encouraged to give your own comments about these guys.

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  • I think Frolov ends up getting dealt this offseason. I wish I knew the kind of relationship DL and Frolov currently have. I know they had a pretty good one to begin the season, what with the bet, the book & all of that. I just don’t know if Frolov is Dean’s “guy”. As much as I enjoy seeing Frolov play at his best, I think more dynamic speed and play with the puck would suit the Kings better. Maybe trading Frolov & something else for Buffalo’s Maxim Afinogenov?

  • Dave

    Frolov+ for Afinogenov is overpayment.

    I’m interested to see your take on O’Sullivan. With him, Fro, Cammi, Brown and Kopitar, I’d say the Kings have just about got their top six of the future.

  • Ash

    ALEXANDER FROLOV 82 GP 35 G 36 A 71 Pts .87 P/G = $2.9 Mil CAP hit @ 24 yr old


    MAXIM AFINOGENOV 56 GP 23 G 38 A 61 Pts 1.09 P/G $3.3 Mil CAP hit @ 27 yr old


    I’m sorry but I don’t see why you’d trade Frolov who will continue to improve ??? Glad you’re not the GM Mikey.

  • Pistol

    Regarding Frolov, although I “like” his play, he has yet to develop into the consistent “go-to” player that the Kings expected. I’m getting tired of his protracted dissapearing acts where I find myself saying, “Did Fro play tonight?” I’m starting to wonder whether he has the heart, the killer instinct, to fight a gruelling war for a Stanley Cup. I wonder whether he just plays for a pay check and nothing more. I guess only time will tell. But I wouldn’t mind seeing him traded now, while his trade value is high, for a real good goalie or dominant defenseman.

  • Im not General Manager. Ill be the first to tell you. And really, anyone who seriously thinks that they are when they make these kinds of trade proposals should step away from their game console and take a hard look in the mirror. Anyway, hey, I love Frolo. I hope hes in a Kings jersey for a long time. Lord knows there hasnt been enough homegrown Kings talent, until recently.

    I guess it’s all talent assessment, though and everyone is entitled to an opinion. Both Frolov and Afinogenov have yet to peak. What I love about Afinogenov in watching him play all season on Center Ice is his dynamic speed. He carries the puck into the zone much the way Anze does and uses his body on the backcheckers. Youtube him right now. You’ll be impressed and not just by flukie goal against Tampa Bay. He’s hungry, he’s fast and he’s smart – everything I love in my hotshot winger. Overpay for him? Maybe but it was an idea. Who really knows what would be swapped if those two were swapped in crosscountry packages. I do know that Deano was strongly looking at Martin Havlat (before he was traded) and Maxim Afinogenov (before he was resigned) in the offseason. Maybe theres a reason for that? No one really knows about the lockerroom stuff and maybe Frolov isnt the guy for this team, much the way Avery wasnt. Who knows? But if, in fact, Frolov is not here to staythis season ticket holder would like to see us recoup an exciting winger at equal or greater value.

  • gary bronner

    I hope they are able to keep jackman! from what I’ve seem of him I think he would be a great young replacement for the thorton line in the future..

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