LA Kings: Todd McLellan offers clear expectations for Andreas Athanasiou

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports) /

Expected to join the LA Kings this week, Andreas Athanasiou’s history as a goal-scorer comes with enormous expectations at both ends of the ice.

Last week, the LA Kings made a small signing in terms of the salary cap and contract length. But Andreas Athanasiou enters Los Angeles two years removed from scoring 30 goals and 54 points. He followed that with a disappointing 19-20 season, highlighted by a -48 rating combined between the Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers.

“There’s a lot of offensive areas that we think he can help us defensively,” said head coach Todd McLellan after Day 5 of training camp. “You know, and I said this the other day, we can always look at a plus-minus — it’s real obvious it stands out. But you really have to dig deep. And you have to look at situations he was in to earn some of those minuses, how many empty-net goals was he on the ice for?”

“How many situations occurred where he wasn’t part of the breakdown, and there’s things that he can continue to work on defensively. We think our structure will help everybody in that area, including him, and we expect him to commit to both sides of the puck.”

The 26-year-old has never been lauded for his defense. Over the last three seasons, he’s accumulated a 45.3 expected-goals-for percentage in just over 2500 minutes on-ice. There are no questions about his offensive abilities, as his speed, puckhandling, and shooting abilities have always been the backbone for his style of play.

It certainly doesn’t help that he’s entering a new system in a shortened season. But his resume is exactly why the LA Kings are bringing him in.

“We signed him because one, we believe we’re going to have a very motivated, hungry player,” McLellan said. “He’s at a point in his career where it’s time to step in and really get it going and prove to the world that you’re a legitimate 20 to 30 goals for every year. We believe we’re going to get that from him. I think that he wants to produce at that level.”

McLellan also noted that Athanasiou has participated in the team Zoom meetings while he waits to clear NHL protocols. While he has yet to skate with the team, he should have a fundamental understanding of what’s expected when he joins the team, which could be as soon as Wednesday after an earlier timeline reported Thursday for his debut.

“The one thing he hasn’t done is physically put it into play on the ice, and our players have been going pretty hard now for five or six days. In his case, he hasn’t been able to skate. And he’ll need some catch-up time there.”

The LA Kings ended the 19-20 season with the third-most shots on goal, but they struggled to finish, tallying the second-fewest goals. Adding a 30-goal scorer in Athanasiou, along with a couple of other players taking the next step, could propel the team into the playoff conversation.