Tyler Toffoli has been one of few Los Angeles Kings players that has been up to snuff at the start of the season.
The 2013-14 Stanley Cup champions missed out on the playoffs last season, which was rightfully seen as a huge failure. With the addition of Milan Lucic and Christian Ehrhoff during the offseason, Kings fans were hopeful heading into the new season.
The Kings opened up the season with three straight losses at home against San Jose, Arizona and Vancouver. The Kings have never been a high scoring team under Darryl Sutter, something that has once more been confirmed during the start of the 2015/2016 campaign. Combine that with some shaky defensive performances and below average goaltending by Jonathan Quick, and it’s easy to see why Kings fans were freaking out after the 3-0 loss to Vancouver.
Tyler Toffoli has been one of few positives during the start of the season. Heading into Thursday’s game against the San Jose Sharks, the Kings had scored six goals in five games, with Toffoli scoring three.
Against the Sharks on Thursday, Toffoli opened up the scoring with a beautiful move in the first period. He ended the night with one goal on two shots on net as the Kings found some scoring, beating their California rival 4-1 on the road to extended the win-streak to three games. The line with Toffoli, Jeff Carter and Lucic were successful, especially on the power play, as Carter left the game with two goals and two assists and Lucic had a goal.
Tyler Toffoli with a crazy excellent goal pic.twitter.com/CDVdlauM2i
— Stephanie (@myregularface) October 23, 2015
The 23-year-old Scarborough native scored the opening goal in the Kings 2-1 overtime victory over the Minnesota Wild. He followed that up by scoring the game winner against the Colorado Avalanche as the Kings took a 2-1 win in regulation. The Kings looked a lot better in those wins, and it seems to have stifled some of the panic that Kings fans felt after the opening three games.
Toffoli scored 23 goals last season (a career high) and has the potential to become a solid 25-plus goalscorer. He has great chemistry with centerman Carter on the Kings’ second line. In the last couple of games, Lucic has been the other man on that line, replacing Tanner Pearson.
Toffoli lead the league in shorthanded goals last season with five, and he’s already netted one this season against the Arizona Coyotes. He’s not an overly speedy forward, but he has great positional awareness and does a good job on the forecheck. Combine that with his scoring touch and it’s no wonder that he’s been compared to Kings legend Luc Robitaille.
Toffoli spoke to Kings Insider Jon Rosen after the win against Colorado, and although he recognized that the Kings have played better after those opening three games, he knows that there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“We feel a lot more comfortable, and like I said, we have a lot more work to do,. It’s early in the year. We weren’t panicking when we didn’t win the first three, and we’re not going to blow our heads here and get all excited about winning two straight. We’ve got to win a lot more than two games to make the playoffs and go from there.”
Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick are the faces of the franchise, but it could be Toffoli that is the difference between getting back into the playoffs or losing out for a second straight year. Kopitar has won the Kings scoring title for several years in a row now, but Toffoli definitely has the capability to build on his career high 49 points from last season (23 goals 26 assists) and take up the fight with Kopitar.
Toffoli signed a two-year bridge deal prior to the season, which carries a $3.25 million cap hit. If he continues to evolve and reach that 25 goal mark, he could expect a big pay bump when it’s time to negotiate a new deal. With four goals in six games, he’s well on his way.