Signed to a one-year contract on the eve of the 2021 LA Kings Training Camp, Andreas Athanasiou came to Los Angeles two years removed from a 30-goal campaign on a Detroit Red Wings squad that finished second to last in the Atlantic Division.
The Kings finished with the second-fewest goals in the shortened 19-20 season, and without any significant offseason moves, Athanasiou was brought in to help in the scoring department.
What would the LA Kings offense have looked like without Andreas Athanasiou?
The 26-year-old opened the season, scoring goals in the first three games. He had at least a point in five of the first seven before a two-week absence on the NHL’s COVID protocol list knocked him out of action. It took him a few games to get his sea legs back, but Athanasiou tallied points in six of eight games at the end of March and carrying into April.
As you would expect, he was one of the primary play drivers for the LA Kings this season, given his speed. According to Natural Stat Trick, Athanasiou logged a 47.2 GF% (actual production), the seventh-best mark on the team for players who registered at least 100 minutes TOI.
The Woodbridge, Ontario native’s 11.8% shot rate was right in line with his 12.2% career average. He did all this, primarily playing on a line with Blake Lizotte and Jeff Carter, a line that, together, produced a 43.2 xGF%. Despite just under 33 minutes TOI, Athanasiou experienced the most success with Adrian Kempe and Carter, logging a 65.2 xGF% across six games.
The LA Kings struggled to score in five-on-five again this season, but Athanasiou’s 23 points were sixth-best on the team, tied with Trevor Moore.
Whether the Kings being “out of the playoffs” without officially being eliminated played a factor, but Athanasiou was largely absent from the scoresheet over the final 15 games or so. During that span, the 26-year-old accumulated just one goal and five assists.
He recorded just one or two shots on goal per game in the final quarter of the season, which coincided with the Jeff Carter trade as well as the Kings’ poor finish.
From the eye test, Athanasiou’s defensive woes weren’t all that they were made out to be when the LA Kings originally signed him. However, analytically, he was one of the worst in even-strength defensive (EVD) metrics, logging a -0.410 EVD WAR, only better than Carl Grundstrom.
However, his shooting and even-strength offense were so good that, as noted, the eye test didn’t pick up his defensive inefficiencies.
It sounds like there is mutual interest in Athanasiou returning to Los Angeles next year and potentially beyond. At one point in the season, I would have considered him a “must” re-sign player, given how much the team was struggling to score. However, he faded down the stretch, so I would be cautious toward giving him more than a one-year deal.
At this point, with Carter being traded, Athanasiou is probably back next season. He was tied for the team-lead in even-strength goals with Anze Kopitar (10). But he can’t be the only move this offseason for general manager Rob Blake. The Kings have to make a couple of offseason splashes to significantly help this offense, which in turn, should increase Athanasiou’s production.
If re-signed, he’s probably protected from the Seattle expansion draft, given his speed and ability to score. Austin Wagner‘s time in Los Angeles might be up, whether he’s selected by Seattle or moved in a separate offseason deal. Athanasiou has Wagner’s speed, but he’s a proven scorer. Something Wagner has yet to prove he can do.