As they Kings prepare to open camp, here are five things to watch in Los Angeles:
1- The Goaltenders
Assume that Potvin and Storr are going to share the duties this season. How much sharing will be done? If Storr is indeed the future at the position, he needs more time. Perhaps the bigger issue is what will be behind these two in the system? B.J. Boxma appears to have the job in Reading if he wants it, and assume Huet gets the #2 spot in Manchester behind Travis Scott. Does Matthew Yeats get a shot at all?
There is a spot up for grabs and Andreas Lilja appears to be the frontrunner based on how he finished last season, but Joe Corvo may have the nod because he has a better offensive game. If one appears to emerge as the #6 guy, do they send the other one to Manchester or keep him around playing every 10 games at best? If they elect to send one down, they have signed Chris McAlpine, who has handled this type of sporadic playing time in the past.
The rest of the defenseman will also need to show where their games are. Players like Richard Seeley, Mike Pudlick, Joe Rullier and Jason Crain need to show if should be buying or renting in Manchester.
Will Pavel Rosa and Steve Heinze pull themselves off the scrap heap? Heinze was a disappointment along the lines of Steve Duschesne’s last stint with the Kings. He clearly has NHL skills, but needs to mesh his game to the King’s style. Pavel Rosa went overseas to straighten out his game. Did he come back to claim his spot as an AHL veteran or NHL prospect? The bigger question will be who, if any, makes the step from prospect to player? Mike Cammalleri, Alexander Frolov and Jared Aulin appear to have shots at playing on the top two lines, while Yannick Lehoux is likely headed to Manchester to work on his game. If they can’t get NHL time from one of these four, look for a trade before the season starts. The Kings would prefer to have one or two of these guys learn on the fly, while keeping any potential trade assets for the NHL deadline in 2003.
Ken Belanger will be the enforcer on this team, but if he starts like he did last season would they consider giving Ryan Flinn the job? If he is not playing a physical game, Belanger adds nothing to the team. Flinn has to narrow the wide gap between his skills without his gloves and his game with them on. The Kings would prefer he had another season in Manchester to develop, but they can be confident that he can fill a role in L.A. if they need him.
5- Norstrom and Miller
Will either of these guys get signed before the season ends or will the Kings lose their two top defensemen to free agency. If they sign one, will the other be lost via trade and what could they get for him? More importantly, will it be a distraction this season or can they get it resolved without affecting the team?