While it may not deliver the drama or purpose of Netflix’s “Squid Game,” the Kings knocked out quite a few players on Saturday, halving their roster from 56 to 28 in one fell swoop.
Twenty-two players were reassigned to the Kings’ main minor league branch, Ontario Reign, 14 of whom were under contract. Six other players had to be placed on waivers. While most, if not all, of those on waivers will land in Ontario, the rest of the NHL has the option of claiming them for a 24-hour period before clearing the waiver and being reassigned.
Center Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who played 34 games with the Kings last season and missed several games with injury, was the most established player in the Kings training camp roster to be sacked . Center Alex Turcotte, winger Arthur Kaliyev, forward Samuel Fagemo, center Tyler Madden, defenseman Sean Durzi and defenseman Jordan Spence were among the most prominent prospects to return for more experience.
Defenseman Kale Clague, the Kings tied for second most games played who was involved in a trade on Saturday, was part of the group that was placed on waivers. Clague played 18 games last season with the Kings. He was widely projected as a player of interest for the Seattle Kraken during the expansion draft, though they picked and then traded defenseman Kurtis MacDermid instead.
Winger Martin Frk, whose powerful shot has stood out during his career but also suffered serious injury setbacks last season, was also among the retired. He played 18 games with the Kings, as well as a total of 100 NHL games with Detroit and Carolina, making him the most experienced player to leave the camp on Saturday.
Overtaking the players who were reassigned or dropped, there would be 28 players left in training camp. The squad includes Kings regulars, three new veteran acquisitions and a handful of prospects to break through. Those who played less than 15 games for the Kings last season were center Quinton Byfield, winger Vladimir Tkachev, defenseman Austin Strand, center Akil Thomas and defenseman Christian Wolanin.
Byfield was the second overall selection in the 2020 draft and won a six-game audition with the Kings last season. He looks set to make the leap into the NHL, although his role and perhaps his position has yet to be defined since the Kings hired center Phillip Danault to play behind Anze Kopitar. If they are to use Byfield and last year’s No.2 center Gabe Vilardi in their top nine, one of those two will need to upgrade to a wing.
Tkachev signed with the Kings of the Russian Continental Hockey League and lived up to his bill as a heady and qualified offensive contributor. He and Byfield will have to supplant players like Carl Grundstrom, Austin Wagner and Blake Lizotte, players who had firm if not concrete places in the squad last season. Forward Lias Andersson, who played 23 games for the Kings last season, also remains an intriguing figure in training camp and beyond.
Thomas was injured throughout the camp, but impressed the organization with his abilities and character during his junior career and his first minor professional campaign. The 2018 second-rounder could make his NHL debut sooner rather than later.
Wolanin, who the Kings acquired from the Ottawa Senators last season, and Strand, who was stable in his first 13 NHL games last season, will compete for at least one available defensive spot. Veteran Olli Maatta suffered an unspecified injury on Friday, which could open up a second opportunity.