LA Kings: Why these two lineup changes need to be permanent

LA Kings (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Gabe Vilardi’s promotion have boosted the LA Kings in limited sample size. We need to see them in a permanent role.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I wasn’t expecting Jaret Anderson-Dolan to have an immediate impact on the LA Kings fourth line in the way that he has. The 21-year had nine career NHL games to his name before this season, tallying one assist in the process. However, with the on-going lineup changes and injuries surrounding the Kings this season, Anderson-Dolan got his time against the Vegas Golden Knights last week.

In his first game, he looked every bit of the part of “getting his feet wet,” recording a -1 rating, four penalty minutes, and no points in the Kings defeat to the Vegas Golden Knights last Friday. That said, he was still aggressive applying a heavy forecheck and doing the little things right. And in the rematch on Sunday, the Calgary, Alberta native took another step forward: skating hard, carrying the puck well, and crashing the net.

Trevor Moore had a nifty pass from behind the net, feeding it to JAD, who was camped in front of Golden Knight’s netminder Robin Lehner, and wristed a shot to the back of the net. The goal marked JAD’s first of his career, and it’s only seemed to have given him more confidence.

On Tuesday, he remained on the team’s fourth line and showed remarkable speed, a trait I wasn’t exactly aware that he possessed. For all the LA Kings’ struggles this season, their fourth line has consistently been above-average, from an analytics perspective.

Before his promotion to the team’s second line due to Blake Lizotte’s absence, Michael Amadio centered the fourth line. The group of Amadio – Moore – Grundstrom had an above-average xGF% but rarely produced. Now, the LA Kings fourth line has two legitimate young players who can put the puck in the back of the net in JAD and Grundstrom, with Moore carrying the puck into the offensive zone with his excellent speed.

“That line has been effective since we put them together,” McLellan said in the postgame press conference. “All three games. They’ve worked real hard, they’ve been very conscientious defensively, they haven’t given up very much. And they play a simple, straightforward game, and they deserve to be out there. Their minutes came at the cost of some others that weren’t playing well. We went to three lines in the third period, and they earned the right to be out there.”

Speaking of the second line, since Lizotte landed on the NHL’s COVID protocol list, Michael Amadio has primarily been centering that line, and the results have been downright horrific. Jeff Carter‘s production took a nosedive, and the team couldn’t rely on any secondary scoring from that group.

Late in the third period, LA Kings head coach Todd McLellan made a line change, promoting Gabe Vilardi to the second line with Carter and Adrian Kempe. It’s a small sample size, but the three accounted for a 93.7 xGF%. In case you weren’t aware, that’s elite analytics.

Carter was more noticeable after the switch, and Vilardi had an outstanding third period and overtime performance.

The Kings issues, right now, are primarily along the blue line with Matt Roy and Sean Walker out of the lineup. We’ll await word on Drew Doughty‘s status, which could lead to a whole new set of problems. Plain and simple, the Kings have to start faster in games.

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Keeping Jaret Anderson-Dolan along the fourth line and Gabe Vilardi at the 2C are two much-needed measures towards putting more goals on the board.