LA Kings: Tobias Bjonfot can gain edge playing for Djurgårdens IF

LA Kings (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

After playing in only three games last year with the LA Kings, Tobias Bjornfot is ready to transition into a full-time role this season.

When the LA Kings took Tobias Bjornfot with the 22nd overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, he surprised many when he made the team out of training camp leading into the 2019-2020 campaign. Paired with Drew Doughty for only three games, Bjornfot had some evident growing pains, especially in the opener against the Edmonton Oilers.

The 18-year-old defenseman struggled to contain the speedy Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, a problem for most teams last season. Bjornfot accounted for 23 shifts and 15:02 average time-on-ice but registered no shots, hits, or blocked shots.

Four days later, he recorded a -3 rating in a lopsided 8-2 Vancouver win and again, failed to record much of anything in the box score. The LA Kings optioned him to their AHL affiliate in Ontario. Paired with Paul LaDue, the duo accounted for 15 goals with 31 assists, including seven goals on the man advantage.

Bjornfot, alone, tallied six goals with 13 assists for 19 points and two power play goals. Like many of the Kings’ prospects, Bjornfot was loaned to Djurgårdens IF of the SHL, who is set to kick off their season on Saturday.

I had the chance to speak with SHL writer Sixten Funqvist, who recently appeared on the All The Kings Men Podcast, to discuss what Bjornfot needs to do to have a solid rookie year in LA.

‘It’s a boring answer,” Funqvist said. “But I think he just needs to play. Much like many younger guys, he needs to adapt. I think he moved too quickly to the NHL, but then again, it might not have been his call to make.”

Unless he absolutely dazzled, I don’t think the Kings ever intended to start the clock on Bjornfot’s three-entry level contract last year. He made the team out of camp, and the Kings wanted to see how the youngster handled himself on the top pairing.

Those three games also marked the first time that Bjornfot played on a smaller North American rink in a live-game scenario. Talk about having to make adjustments on the fly.

I asked Reign Insider Zach Dooley the same question and what he saw from Bjonfot in Ontario over a 44-game sample size.

“If Toby played 3 games at the end of the season, I think you’d see a different player. He has so much poise for an 18-year-old, very excited to see how he continues to develop. I think because he made the team out of camp, it’s easy to forget he wasn’t just a rookie but a rookie at 18.”

The Kings continue their quest to find a left-handed defenseman this offseason. Whether that player is acquired via trade or signed in the free-agent market remains to be determined. But Bjornfot and Mikey Anderson will likely battle for the second pairing with Matt Roy in training camp.

Anderson played in six games last year and generally handled himself well. I recently did a deep dive on all of his shifts, with his poke checks standing out on the defensive side.

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But Bjornfot could gain the upper hand playing in meaningful games in the SHL while Anderson waits for the NHL and NHLPA to set a timetable for a minicamp for the seven teams who failed to make the playoff bubble. We’ll see how the now 19-year-old performs in the SHL, but he figures to see regular playing time for the Kings once the 2020-2021 season begins.