LA Kings: Analytical breakdown of Blake Lizotte’s regression

(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

Blake Lizotte was a pleasant surprise for the LA Kings last season, but he hasn’t taken the next step in his development. What gives?

Coming out of training camp last season, Blake Lizotte was one of the better storylines on the LA Kings roster. The former St. Cloud State product went undrafted but was signed to a three-year entry-level contract in April 2019. He was coming off a senior season in which he tallied 14 goals and 28 assists in a 37-game sample size.

Lizotte earned a spot on the Kings with a roster in transition, primarily centering the team’s third line. In all, he finished with six goals and 23 points in the 19-20 campaign, ninth in total points on the roster. This season has been quite disappointing for the 23-year-old, despite the hot start to the 2021 season.

Lizotte scored two goals in the team’s first four games but then went 13 games without registering a point. Certainly, missing over two weeks of games due to a positive COVID test played a role in the slowdown between points, but do the problems stem from his rookie season?

3 /

A closer look at his advanced metrics indicates Lizotte was excellent defensively. Despite being a smaller guy, Lizotte utilizes his speed and plays an excellent 200-foot game. His penalty kill, too, was great. The concern comes in his finishing percentile, and high-danger passes.

Finishing essentially boils down to how a player contributes to his team based on the ability to score on shots taken compared to what is expected. Lizotte shot the puck just 6.9 percent of the time last season, below the league average between eight and nine percent.

High-danger passing is defined as a pass that ends inside or goes through the scoring chance area (i.e., the slot), and Lizotte ranked in the bottom 7th percentile last season. A lot of that can be attributed to being thrown into the fire, for lack of a better phrase. The speed difference between NCHC and NHL hockey can be overwhelming for a young player.

In 2021, Lizotte has just two goals and two assists, averaging 0.20 point-per-game — down from 0.35 in 19-20. While he’s nearly doubled his shot percentage (11.8), his CorsiFor is significantly reduced from last season (50.9 versus 55.1). As such, his expected goals for versus expected goals against metrics are downright terrible this season in even-strength situations.

2 /

According to NaturalStatTrick, Lizotte owns a 43.5 xGF% in 208 minutes of on-ice time. Statistically, the LA Kings are better off when he’s on the bench, accounting for a still not great but marginally improved 46.2 xGF%.

Head coach Todd McLellan uses the word “tenacity” a lot when describing Lizotte’s game, and that’s evident away from the puck and in the defensive zone. Again, statistics aside, he’s a competent two-way forward and had a promising rookie season. But he’s failed to build off those numbers approximately halfway through the 2021 season.

1 /

With the LA Kings so deep up the middle in terms of their prospect pool, it feels like a matter of time before Lizotte plays his way off the roster. That’s not meant to be disrespectful, but the writing is on the wall for Lizotte’s time in Los Angeles. He’s a fine player during a rebuild. He’s not a guy that will be on a Stanley Cup contending team.

Next. Maatta’s play further justifies dynamic defenseman need. dark

At this point in the season, the Kings need to see more of what they have in Lias Andersson. He’s largely been limited to fourth-line play, but he was originally drafted seventh overall in 2017 for a reason.