While the official return of Kings hockey is still only a couple weeks away, preseason has gone into full swing.
Each year, dozens of players seek to grind it out with their competition at the chance to crack the Kings’ regular season roster.
Among the most intriguing stories of this year’s preseason is that of 29-year-old forward Devin Setoguchi.
Setoguchi was drafted back in 2005 eighth overall, three picks above Kings captain and Selke-winning center Anze Kopitar.
The forward enjoyed several seasons as a proven goal-scorer with various NHL clubs, before depression and addiction sent him packing from the league.
Though Setoguchi is long removed from his prime, he found himself with an opportunity at redemption when the Kings signed him to a professional tryout offer on September 7.
Despite this, the chance of Setoguchi actually making the Kings roster or even managing to stay in the Kings system was a long-shot at best.
Fast forward three weeks later and the prospect of Setoguchi taking the ice on opening night for the Kings is not looking so outlandish.
Much of that would be due to Setoguchi’s impressive performance during the preseason, something Kings assistant head coach John Stevens has taken note of.
“You’ve got to give him a lot of credit,” Stevens said. “He came in here in very good condition, ready to go, and wanted to put his best foot forward and try to win a spot back in the league.”
However, the biggest catapult for Setoguchi potentially cracking the roster came with the news of Marian Gaborik’s lower-body injury during the World Cup.
It is expected to put the winger of commission for at least eight weeks – well into the Kings’ regular season.
With that, the Kings suddenly find themselves lacking another top-six winger and in bad shape to start off the regular season.
Sure, they have a number of solid winger prospects who have shown flashes of NHL-caliber abilities.
Michael Mersch, for one. But none would be realistically expected to take on a top-six role when the Kings take on San Jose for the upcoming season opener.
Meanwhile, Setoguchi, despite everything, has hundreds of NHL games and plenty of top-six minutes under his belt.
During a preseason game against Anaheim, Setoguchi helped lift the Kings to a 6-1victory, scoring a goal and notching an impressive assist.
The forward still has a number of opportunities in the preseason to show the Kings coaching staff he can not only fit into the roster, but be an impact player.
“I talked to Rob Blake and I told him I was ready to come play,” Setoguchi saidfollowing the preseason game against the Ducks. “I really have nothing to focus on other than just playing the best I can, and with the opportunity I get, making the best of it.”
Should Setoguchi continue to prove his worth, Kings fans may see the ex-Sharks star facing against his former team on October 12 and in the lineup for the foreseeable future.