While much of the talk surrounding what the Los Angeles Kings need to target this summer includes left-shot defensemen and goal-scoring wingers, goalie is another area where the team needs some long-term help. It’s the weakest part of the King’s league-best prospect pool, and with the upcoming draft lacking in top-end goalie prospects, the team will have to search in other places for their future in net. Fortunately, the Kings have a few options to target.
Kings’ Current Situation in Net
Before discussing options for the team, I think it’s important to discuss the Kings’ current goaltending situation. At the NHL level, Cal Petersen and Jonathan Quick will return next season, making a combined $10.8 million. There isn’t room on the team next season, but there will likely be an opening on the team come the 2023-24 season. Quick’s contract will be up and Petersen should have taken sole possession of the No. 1 spot. This would leave a backup spot available for someone and potentially the ability to fight for a starting spot.
After signing a three-year, $15 million contract extension last summer, the plan was to have Petersen take sole possession of the starting job this season. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened and despite improving during the second half of the season, there’s still a question about who’s the starter. I’m sure there is still confidence within the organization that Petersen can figure it out and become a No. 1 goalie, but there must be doubts arising. If Petersen can’t take the step to become a No. 1 goalie, the Kings will need a backup plan in place, as poor goaltending could kill what they’re building. That’s where these options come into play.
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The Kings’ current goalie prospects include signed goalies, Matt Vilalta, Jacob Ingham, and David Hrenak with Juho Markkanen and Lukas Parik being unsigned players whose rights the Kings own. This isn’t the worst prospect pool in the world if you were confident in Petersen being a true No. 1. I think there’s a good chance that Vilalta and Hrenak both develop into solid NHL backups, but nothing more. If Petersen can’t take the next step, the Kings are without a goalie who has top-end potential.
Dryden McKay – Minnesota State University (Mankato)
Dryden McKay will be on several teams’ lists heading into the offseason. The Minnesota State University (Mankato) netminder just posted an incredible season that saw him win the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s most valuable player. I have finished the year with an impressive .931 save percentage (SV%), a 1.31 goals-against average (GAA), and an NCAA-leading 38 wins. There is also an impressive body of work with McKay, as he’s never posted a season with a GAA above 1.76 or a SV% below .924. A four-year starter, he would come in with an extremely impressive resume.
Most of the concerns surrounding McKay, and one of the main reasons he still doesn’t have an NHL contract, is his size. Standing at just 6-foot, many teams are wary of signing such a small goalie. TSN’s Craig Button feels that size is the only thing that has kept him off an NHL roster.
“All I know is technically he is good, the foundation of his skill is good. If he was 6-foot-2, he would not be playing on Thursday, he would’ve been signed long ago. In the net, he’s a game changer.”
The Kings should have fewer reservations, though, as he’s just one inch shorter than both Quick and Petersen. While I understand the reservation surrounding smaller goalies, people like Quick, Petersen, and especially Nashville Predators star Juuse Saros should prove that “undersized” goalies can still get the job done. As I mentioned, several teams will be in the hunt for McKay, but the Kings would be an exciting spot. This is a team on the up and up, who should be competing at the top of the league in a few seasons, and there’s a clear path to the starting job for McKay. If he’s confident in taking the job from Petersen within the next two or three seasons, he could be backstopping a dominant team. It would be a tough fight to grab McKay, but not an impossible one for general manager Rob Blake, and Blake should go hard for McKay this summer.
Strauss Mann – Skellefteå AIK
The second option is Skellefteå AIK and former University of Michigan goalie Strauss Mann. After three solid seasons at Michigan, I have decided to take a crack at professional hockey, going to the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) after not receiving any NHL offers. He put together a strong college career, finishing his final season at Michigan as team captain, posting a 1.89 GAA and .930 SV%. He’s found continued success in Sweden, posting a .914 SV% and 2.19 GAA, his save percentage puts him top-10 league-wide, while his GAA average places him top five. Certainly a top-10 goalie in the SHL and arguably top five, it’s been a strong showing from Mann in his first season of professional hockey.
Despite his strong season in Sweden, it’s his play at the Olympics that caught most people’s eye. Splitting time with Chicago Blackhawks draft pick Drew Commesso, Mann was the starter, playing in the elimination game against Slovakia and the big matchup against Canada. In the game against Canada, Mann stood tall finishing with 35 saves, coming up big when his team needed him. Even in the disappointing loss to Slovakia, Mann carried his weight, making 34 saves and allowing just one goal on four shootout attempts. Like McKay, Mann stands at just 6-foot and his height has scared off many an NHL team. As I said with McKay, the Kings shouldn’t be worried about Mann’s height, only his performances.
One of the things that makes me confident in Mann working for the Kings is his personality. By all accounts, he is obsessive in his pursuit of him to improve and is a goalie coach’s dream. Kings fans have seen the magic that goalie coach Bill Ranford can work. Mann and Ranford seem like a match made in heaven, a goalie who’s willing to give himself entirely to a coach and do whatever he’s told, and a coach who’s widely regarded as one of the best in the world. Mann would also be easier to sign than McKay, as he won’t have nearly as many suitors.
Yaniv Perets – Quinnipiac University
A more long-term option would be Yaniv Perets, the Kings won’t be able to sign him until after the 2022-23 seasons, as he’s returning to college, but he’s a goalie the team should keep an eye on. In his first full season of college hockey, after appearing in just two games last season, Perets put up unbelievable numbers. In 31 games, I have finished with a 1.17 GAA and a.939 SV%. I saw one outlet refer to these as “video game numbers” and it’s hard to disagree. With just one season under his belt, some people want to see a larger sample size before making any commitment to him, but if he can come even close to representing these numbers next season, the Kings should be very interested in him.
The youngest of the three goalies, Perets might require a bit more development than the other two, but there’s also more room for growth. He was named the ECAC player of the year and was top-10 in Hobey Baker votes. If he puts up another stellar season, demand might increase for him, but again, the Kings should be in an exciting spot for goalie prospects.
Kings Need to Solidify Their Goaltending
I’m sure the Kings have not given up on Petersen as a future No. 1 goalie, but having just one goalie in the system who might reach that level is playing with fire. They need to add quality to their system and they have a chance this summer and next. Any of these three would come in and be the best goalie prospect in the Kings’ system and the best part about signing college or European free agents is that they’re usually further along in their development than an 18-year-old the Kings can draft. The team will need help in net soon and can get it from these three players.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.