The Los Angeles Kings have officially announced a signing that has been expected for weeks, inking Oscar Fantenberg to a one-year entry-level contract. The details of the contract were not announced. Fantenberg will become a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the one-year deal.
After playing for years in the Swedish professional leagues, Fantenberg tried his hand in the KHL last season and was an immediate success. Named to the league’s all-star team, Fantenberg was actually replaced in the game by Montreal Canadiens recent free agent signing Jakub Jerabek when he had to pull out due to injury. Regardless, his play was good enough for all-star consideration as he scored 23 points in 44 games while logging over 22 minutes a game for Sochi. Jon Rosen for LA Kings Insider recently released a scouting report on Fantenberg, which includes thoughts from Director of Scouting Mark Yannetti:
“One of the overlooked assets of speed is actually how you get the puck up the ice,” Yannetti said. Speed is obviously important in today’s game, but moving the puck quickly is more important than simply possessing speed, according to many in the Kings organization and elsewhere.
Indeed Fantenberg will impress mostly with his smooth exits and quick decisions, and not his physical play. This year for Sochi he recorded just 45 hits in 44 games, but was still relied upon in all situations. Easily producing the most points among defenders for the team, he has an interesting comparable in Nikita Zaitsev who came over from the KHL last season at the same age. Zaitsev easily adapted to life on the Maple Leafs’ blueline, and earned himself a seven-year contract extension after just a single season with the team. While Fantenberg won’t be relied upon in quite the same way—the Maple Leafs don’t have a Drew Doughty to gobble up all the minutes—he could be a big part of the team as they start to transition towards youth and the future.
The Kings may lose a defender through the expansion draft since it currently looks like Brayden McNabb will be left unprotected despite elite underlying analytical numbers. Bringing in Fantenberg should provide some level of comfort to Kings’ fans wondering what the blueline will look like should McNabb head to Vegas. While he’s not the same player by any means, he could have a similar effect on puck possession while providing even more offence.