This article will be another in my series of player profiles, where I review the season of every player on the Los Angeles Kings. This piece will focus on Blake Lizotte.
In his first NHL season, Lizotte showed that size won’t hold him back and he produced at a fairly strong rate, especially considering that he made the jump right from the NCAA. He scored six goals and 23 points in 65 games, a pace of eight goals and 29 points per 82 games. He also managed those stats with a shooting percentage of just 6.9 per cent, while the Kings had a shooting percentage of just 6.2 per cent while he was on the ice.
He also took on a larger role than expected coming into the year, playing the sixth-most minutes of any forward on the team and also averaging over a minute per game on both the power play and penalty kill. Lizotte was also strong enough in the faceoff dot for his rookie season, hitting the 50 per cent mark.
He faced a pretty average quality of competition (according to Hockey Abstract) but managed an excellent corsi for percentage– the best of any player on the team– at 56.5 per cent. He also had the highest expected goals for percentage of any player on the team (according to NaturalStatTrick.com). It’s important to factor in that he was getting a relatively high number of offensive zone starts compared to defensive zone starts but still, those are impressive stats for a rookie.
Overall, this was a really strong rookie season for Lizotte. He’s still just 22 years old and considering that he was in a fairly large role in his first year of professional hockey, he exceeded expectations.
That said, I’m very interested to see how the Kings handle Lizotte in the next few seasons. There’s a good chance he’ll become a quality long-term third-line NHL center, but with so many other strong prospects in the system, it’s a matter of whether he’ll fit with the Kings for an extended period of time. He’s not passing Anze Kopitar on the depth chart and if two of Alex Turcotte, Gabriel Vilardi and/or either Quinton Byfield/Tim Stutzle start at center with Los Angeles next season, Lizotte will be bumped out of the top-nine.
As excited as I am to see the prospects, I’d ideally like to see Lizotte in a top-nine role with the Kings next season. Even if he may not stick with the team on a long-term basis based on the depth down the middle, he’s certainly an asset and he shouldn’t see his role reduced after such a strong rookie season.
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Here's today's poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
How many points do you expect from Blake Lizotte next season?