Edmonton Oilers

Breaking down the Los Angeles Kings’ lineup against the Edmonton Oilers

Now that the Edmonton Oilers first round opponent is set, we can look ahead to the specificities of the Los Angeles Kings’ lineup. Though Oilers fans will surely be familiar with the Kings, whom they defeated in a seven-game first round playoff series last season, there are some new wrinkles in this season’s iteration of the Kings.

Though lineups can be fluid, even beyond the inevitability of injury, a deeper look into the Kings even strength lineup will set the stage for the series, and perhaps reveal some of the deployment decisions that Kings (and former Oilers) Head Coach Todd McLellan will leverage against his former protege, Oilers head Coach Jay Woodcroft.

Position group by position group, let’s analyse what the Oilers will be up against in the first round.


Projected lines

Byfield — Kopitar — Kempe

Moore — Danault — Arvidsson

Iafallo — Lizotte — Kaliyev

Grundstrom — Kupari — Anderson-Dolan

Scratches: Fiala (injured), Vilardi (injured), MacEwen

Kings forwards this season

RankLineTypeMinutesGamesxGoals %xGoals ForxGoals AgainstxGoals For
Per 60 Minutes
xGoals Against
Per 60 Minutes

With a duo of certified top nine forwards out with injury, Kevin Fiala and Gabe Vilardi, there would certainly be some changes if either become available during the series. With that disclaimer out of the way, the key to understanding the Kings forward group begins with their top two centres, Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault. There might be no better defensive duo of centres across the league, well illustrated by their Selke Trophy reputations.

Kopitar has played most of the past two seasons with Adrian Kempe on his wing. Though Kempe has played centre in the past, his speed and scoring talent are needed to give this line a legitimate scoring threat. Both injured forwards, Vilardi and Fiala, have spent time as the third member of this line.

For the time being, young centre Quinton Byfield has played well enough to earn a look in this spot. Byfield brings a lot of talent to the ice, though he is still just scratching the surface of what kind of NHL player he will become. At this point Byfield brings some speed, useful for forechecking and attacking off the rush. His playmaking pairs well here, able to help the Kings capitalise off of his rush chances or when his forechecking creates turnovers. His size helps a lot as well, as he’s able to win board battles, protect the puck in close quarters, and has developed a good net front presence. Though Kopitar is an outstanding defensive player, the Kings rely on this line as their top offensive option.

Danault, meanwhile, will claim more of the pure defensive assignments. For most of his time in Los Angeles, Danault has been paired with Trevor Moore and the duo has seen a lot of success. Moore is short but stout, a heavy presence along the boards and on the forecheck, while being fast enough to defend transition as well. Often, Victor Arvidsson is the third member of this line, as he brings a scoring threat to the group, especially as a shooter. Though Moore and Arvidsson are on the shorter side, both wingers bring an intensity and tenacity to the ice. With Danault shining in taking away transition offence down the middle, the sandpaper that Moore and Arvidsson bring to his wings is well received.

Kings depth has somewhat been stabilized

The Kings’ bottom six is far less set in stone, though a few trends have stabilised. Despite a plethora of highly touted centre prospects, Blake Lizotte has earned the 3C duties for the Kings. Alex Iafallo is a mainstay here, though the injured Vilardi and Fiala might find themselves as a part of this line if they return.

Arthur Kaliyev is an interesting player, easily one of the Kings best pure goal scorers, but his overall game leaves a bit to be desired. The fact that he has moved up the lineup shows that he is making strides here, but most of his contributions will come on the power play.

Rasmus Kupari has settled in nicely as a depth forward. Although Kupari has some upside as a young playmaker, he has yet to discover his offensive game at the NHL level. That being said he has been solid defensively and has enough speed to defend in transition. Carl Grundstrom is the mainstay here as a net front battler, while either Jaret Anderson-Dolan, bringing speed, or Zach MacEwan, bringing size are able to draw in on the other wing. At full strength any or all of Byfield, Iafallo, or Kaliyev might see time here.

In the last playoff series, the Oilers dominated the Kings by metric of expected goals, as we’ll take a look at here.

Kings forwards last playoffs

RankLineTypeMinutesGamesxGoals %xGoals ForxGoals AgainstxGoals For
Per 60 Minutes
xGoals Against
Per 60 Minutes

From these stats we can see the Kopitar lines had some trouble, though the Kings are an improved team this season. Danault was much more effective, speaking to his defensive prowess. Meanwhile, Lizotte’s line was fantastic, illustrating his effectiveness. This might also show us that the Kings depth was more effective than the Oilers whose bottom six is greatly improved this season.

Perhaps more valuable is the results in matchups between Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Kopitar, and Danault this season. Though the four games are a small sample size, they might be instructive to how the teams will try to navigate the matchups.

Kopitar and Kempe this season

Player 1Player 2GPTOIxGF%CF%SCF%
Connor McDavidLeon Draisaitl42.505050
Connor McDavidw/o Leon Draisaitl417.6531.1958.0650
w/o Connor McDavidLeon Draisaitl418.6280.968.7572.22
w/o Connor McDavidw/o Leon Draisaitl411.4229.2636.8427.27

Danault and Arvidsson this season

Player 1Player 2GPTOIxGF%CF%SCF%
Connor McDavidLeon Draisaitl43.4028.5728.57
Connor McDavidw/o Leon Draisaitl417.1560.5261.2968.42
w/o Connor McDavidLeon Draisaitl417.2758.8945.1643.75
w/o Connor McDavidw/o Leon Draisaitl410.6538.795050

McDavid controlled shot attempts against Kopitar, but was outdueled by expected goals; Draisaitl fared much better in his time against Kopitar. The Kings will likely use home ice to get Kopitar on the ice against McDavid, hoping that Kopitar’s size can help neutralise the Oilers captain.

Meanwhile, both McDavid and Draisaitl fared well against Danault this season, though McDavid had a stronger showing here. The Kings are likely to try to use Danault against Draisaitl as much as they can.

Regardless, it is clear that the four centres will see a lot of each other, with most of their minutes coming head to head.


Projected pairs

Anderson — Doughty

Gavrikov — Roy

Durzi — Walker

Extras: Edler (injured), Spence, Bjornfot

Kings defence pairs this season

RankLineTypeMinutesGamesxGoals %xGoals ForxGoals AgainstxGoals For
Per 60 Minutes
xGoals Against
Per 60 Minutes

The biggest difference between the Kings blueline this season to last is the availability of Drew Doughty. Unquestionably the Kings top defenceman, Doughty should make a big difference in this year’s series. Mikey Anderson joins as a partner, bringing a steady game with a touch of nastiness that Oilers fans are familiar with.

Vladislav Gavrikov and Matt Roy have been outstanding in their time together, controlling expected goals at a rate just over 70% since being paired together. Gavrikov brings a lot of defensive ability, while Roy is better able to handle the puck handling duties here.

Sean Durzi has been playing higher up in the lineup over the past few years, now tentatively finding himself on his weak side as a right shot. Durzi is a strong offensive option but is not afraid to be abrasive. Sean Walker is a steady third pairing option, holding down this spot virtually all season, though Alex Edler might draw in on the left side. Edler is not his past self, but the veteran thrives in the loosened laws of the NHL playoffs.

The Kings have some valuable depth, a pair of young players that could fill a role if called upon. Jordan Spence is an offensive right shot, while Tobias Bjornfot brings a more defensive profile on the left.

Kings defence pairs last playoffs

RankLineTypeMinutesGamesxGoals %xGoals ForxGoals AgainstxGoals For
Per 60 Minutes
xGoals Against
Per 60 Minutes

The first thing that stands out from last year’s playoff stats is how much the Kings missed Doughty. Without their key cog, the Kings were left without an obvious option and did not have a pair that existed in all seven games of the series. While the Oilers have improved since last season, it is understandable that Kings fans will feel confident in their team’s improvements as well.





Goalies this season

Goals Saved
Goals Saved
Above Expected
Per 60
GAAPuck Freezes
Joonas Korpisalo39104116.7412.70.3512.8752.81
Pheonix Copley379296.74.70.1352.643.45
Cal Petersen103424.71-9.3-1.0273.75-4.67

The Kings were very aggressive in revamping their goaltending within the season. A rare tandem that had both goalies, Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen, costing more than $5M against the cap. The Kings tandem struggled, leading the team to underperform against their control of play. While Phoenix Copley had a strong season as a backup, the starter is unquestionably Jonas Korpisalo.

Korpisalo has authored playoff greatness before, stealing a play-in series win against the Toronto Maple Leafs as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Though Korpisalo’s numbers have been inconsistent over the years, especially on weaker teams, the Kings defensive prowess is a great fit for getting the best from the mercurial netminder. Korpisalo is the clear leader in goals saved aboved expected, but also freezes the puck considerably more than his teammates. This shows an ability to control the puck, but will see the Oilers with more offensive faceoff opportunities.

With that in mind, we will end this breakdown with some faceoff stats between centres on the two teams with at least 100 draws taken.

Anze Kopitar55.91%899709LA
Leon Draisaitl54.90%807663EDM
Rasmus Kupari54.59%220183LA
Phillip Danault54.36%692581LA
Connor McDavid51.93%525486EDM
Blake Lizotte51.18%413394LA
Devin Shore50.86%8986EDM
Nick Bjugstad50.44%114112EDM
Derek Ryan50.00%217217EDM
Ryan McLeod48.16%288310EDM
Quinton Byfield47.22%5157LA
Gabriel Vilardi46.02%5261LA
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins45.16%308374EDM

The Kings do have a considerable advantage here, with four of the top six faceoff winners in the series. This is likely the reason that Korpisalo has the green light to freeze the puck as often as he likes. Though faceoffs have little effect on a team’s success over the course of a season, their importance in a playoff series can be severe.

Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire

Gregory Babinski

twitter: @axiomsofice

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