Training camp `burning questions’

Today is reporting day for Kings players, and they’ll be on the ice tomorrow morning in El Segundo. I’m excited for the start of camp, and I intend to be out there all day tomorrow to get a bunch of stuff for the blog.

Below, I’ll post the training-camp preview that I wrote for today’s paper. How would you answer the questions? What are you most excited, eager and/or anxious to see/hear about in training camp?

—–

Kings training camp: 5 burning questions

1. WHO’S ON FIRST?

The first line, that is. Anze Kopitar is the incumbent first-line center, and won’t lose that role, but the Kings have two left wingers (Alexander Frolov and Ryan Smyth) and two right wingers (Dustin Brown and Justin Williams) who are each capable of scoring 30 goals. It could come down to a blending of playing styles. Brown and Smyth are known for their ability to play hard at the net, while Frolov and Williams are known as more natural scorers. When penciling in his top two lines, coach Terry Murray will likely consider not only who fits best with Kopitar – a scorer with great playmaking abilities – but how the wingers’ styles might mesh.

2. CAN DOUGHTY IMPROVE?

Drew Doughty, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft, exceeded most expectations last season when he played 81 games and thrived as a defenseman in even-strength, power-play and penalty-kill situations. Doughty was regularly the Kings’ best defenseman and arguably the most valuable player of the entire team. Still only 19 years old, Doughty has the ability to reach another level. His intelligence and conditioning are already top notch, but he can improve upon the 27 points he scored last season and continue to play his way into a leadership role among a group of young defensemen that also includes Jack Johnson and Davis Drewiske.

3. IS QUICK READY?

This time last year, Jonathan Quick was no better than fourth on the Kings’ goaltending depth chart, behind Jason LaBarbera, Erik Ersberg and Jonathan Bernier. By the end of last season, Quick led the Kings’ goalies in games (44), wins (21), goals-against average (2.48) and save percentage (.910). The goalie competition is open going into training camp, but 23-year-old Quick, entering his second season, has the edge. Ersberg can serve as a solid 20- to 25-game backup, and don’t count out Bernier, the Kings’ 2006 first-round pick, who got slowed by a groin injury during training camp last year but could push Quick for the No. 1 job this month.

4. WILL THE RUMORS END?

Don’t count on it. In June, “confirmed” reports had the Kings trading for defenseman Chris Pronger. This week, they supposedly acquired forward Patrick Marleau. Both reports turned out to be little more than rumor babble, but given that the Kings have a deep pool of talented prospects, it’s no surprise to hear them attached to every wacky trade rumor. The rumors are unlikely to die down unless Alexander Frolov, due to be an unrestricted free agent next summer, signs a contract extension during training camp. If the Kings add anything before the start of this season, it’s likely to be a veteran defenseman, not a forward.

5. IS THIS THE YEAR?

Since the end of the 2002 season, Kings fans have waited to see a playoff game. Dean Lombardi is entering his fourth season as the Kings’ general manager, and while the pieces of his plan seem to be falling in place – the Kings have an ever-improving young defense and a stable of talented young goalies – the Western Conference is tough, deep and balanced, and the Kings need to show that they have enough offense to make a big jump from last season’s 14th-place finish in the West. Given their talent, the Kings should at least be in the conversation for a playoff spot. A six-game road trip in mid-October will set an early tone.

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  • Paul from Oxnard

    To me your #3 is my #1. Is Quick ready? One decent half season doesn’t make a #1 goalie. Ersberg? Bernier? The Kings goaltending still scares me.

    My #2 is can Ryan Smyth remember how to score 30 goals? And my #3 is when will Frolov get a new contract, or will he get traded by the deadline?

  • DellaNooch

    1) Fro-Kopi-JW – Kopi is a playmaker, two finishers around him would be good
    Smyth-Stoll-Brown – They can score and will punish the other line they oppose, will be fun to watch
    2) Doughty will seem to improve if the forwards can put the puck in the net, he’s pretty solid already
    3)Let’s hope Quick builds on what he started, if he continues his solid play, then our first 10 games will look better than last year’s first ten games and then we only need to match last year’s last 72 games to make the playoffs
    4) Rumors won’t end, Fro won’t be signed until around the trade deadline, if he does well and we look positioned for the playoffs, he’s in…if he doesn’t show improvement or we’re not in the playoff race, he’s traded
    5)I believe it’s the year and I really hope so, can’t take much more of this lack of post season.

  • Matt R

    I was at Toyota Sports Center today. Some of the young guys were doing drills. I didn’t recognize most of them but Teddy Purcell was there. A bit later Frolov and Handzus came out and were skating around a bit, passing the puck, taking some shots. I saw Kopitar as well. He looks a good bit bigger than last season. He looks like he’s in really good shape. I’m going to try to come out a few times this week and maybe get some pics.

  • jet

    Matt R — thanks in advance. cikiri or Chasen put some up an Shutterfly. I bought a few of them. Great stuff. Thanks again

  • AK47

    6th question: Can Stoll play as the second line center throughout the whole year or should Lombardi be in the market for a player that would be an upgrade at that position?

  • RaitisWestgarth

    What about this equally important question:

    Who will be the enforcer?
    a) Ivanans
    b) Westgarth
    c) Both Ivanans and Westgarth
    d) Why am I even posting this question on this blog; heck, you guys value the heartless and the weak over heart and toughness…

  • ian

    I think training camp my be very interesting this season.. I am making some bold predictions

    Smyth/Kopitar/Williams
    Brown/Stoll/Purcell or simmonds
    Frolov/Loktionov/Handzus
    Raitis/Moller/Simmonds/clune

  • Chuck

    Frolov/Kopitar/Brown
    Smyth/Stoll/Williams

    I like a blend of scoring and size, on the wings. This should create more room for Kopi/Stoll.

  • JT Snow

    I am going to make a Burning Statement and that is despite the success of out third line last year. The 3rd line will be different this year!
    It will be a defence first line but they will in the end be more offensive also
    Reasons why the line will have maybe some different players…
    1) The recognized “top 6″ (Brown, Kopitar Smyth Frolov, Williams Stoll), will not all be on the top 2 lines…
    2) The beefed up defence will allow more offensive strategies to be implemented by the coaching staff, however, a run a gun offence we will NOT have…
    3)The third line will need to score atleast 15-20 more goals than it did last year for us to make the playoffs(therefore different players) and also be as successful on the defensive end also…
    Anyone agree or disagree.

  • jet

    JT — all very good points. I would love to see scoring from 3 lines. One of those three lines will have some shifts during the game against weaker defenders.

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