The Kings handed the Ducks their first loss of the preseason Friday, staking themselves to a 3-1 first intermission lead in a game they ultimately won 4-3.
With just a few NHL regulars in action, there were still clear takeaways from exhibition action in San Diego.
Turcotte has risen
The Kings’ turnaround has been all the more impressive given that their highest draft selections during their rebuild have yet to make a strong, consistent impact at the pro level. Alex Turcotte has been perhaps the most behind schedule as a former No. 5 overall pick, due mostly to a pair of serious concussions he sustained in minor-league competition.
Turcotte looked spry and active in the back end of the Kings’ two-game set in Australia, and he picked up an assist against the Ducks on Friday. He centered the Kings’ top line flanked by Samuel Fagemo and Alex Laferriere, both of whom scored a goal in the game.
“He looks stronger, he looks more mature, physically, than he did in the past. He’s had good, solid, games and he looks confident,” coach Todd McLellan said.
Young Ducks just got younger
Former San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees announced the Ducks’ starters Sunday, but as Brees shouted out “and Gibbie!” to conclude the lineup, the 44-year-old would have been hard-pressed to find anyone from his generation inside the Ducks’ dressing room.
They will be without two-time Stanley Cup champion Alex Killorn, 34, after he sustained a broken finger late in Wednesday’s game against the San Jose Sharks. The Ducks announced Saturday he will miss four to six weeks. The Ducks’ other veteran acquisition, defenseman Radko Gudas, 33, spent a good part of the offseason recovering from a lower-body injury. Longtime goalie John Gibson, 30, had his own injury scare Friday that forced him out of the game as a precautionary measure (Gibson was back on the ice Saturday).
Promise in Kings’ system remains
Despite a purge of prospects amid a pivot from rebuilding to contention, the Kings still have intrigue among the lower levels of their organization. Defenseman Brandt Clarke, a 2021 lottery pick, was part of a picturesque tic-tac-toe play for a goal, Martin Chromiak added a goal and goalie Erik Portillo made his preseason debut, earning a victory in the process.
Portillo relished not only the opportunity to compete in an NHL-level game, but to navigate the challenges of a close score late in the match.
“I want to make it to the next level and it’s going to be tight situations all the time, so you’ve just got to learn to love it, and I really do,” Portillo said.
Preseason blowing by
September’s close and then the midpoint of camp are fast approaching, and cuts have already been made by both clubs.
The Ducks have already sent away Judd Caulfield, Davis Codd, Nathan Gaucher, Ben King, Josh Lopina, Blake McLaughlin, Sasha Pastujov, Jacob Perreault, Luka Profaca, Tomas Suchanek, Nick Wolf, Rodwin Dionicio, Connor Hvidston, Nico Myatovic, Coulson Pitre, Vojtech Port, Konnor Smith, Yegor Sidorov, Carey Terrance and Brayden Tracey.
On the Kings’ side, the following players have already packed their bags: Easton Armstrong, Sam Alfano, Hunter Mayo, Samuel Mayer, Chase Pauls, Jacob Oster, Nathan Burke, Max Coyle, Sean Tschigerl and Ty Thorpe.
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