With Raitis Ivanans having moved on to Calgary, the Los Angeles Kings needed an enforcer and instead of going the route of free agency, the Kings decided to promote Kevin Westgarth full-time.
After spending the entire 2009-10 campaign in Manchester, the Kings felt like Westgarth was ready for the next level after playing only nine games in Los Angeles prior to that. After racking up 180 PIMs in 76 games for the Monarchs, Westgarth showed he wasn’t just a one-trick pony as he added 11 goals and 14 assists.
This past season, Westgarth played in 56 games for the Kings while collecting 105 PIMs and, although he wasn’t able to score a goal, did help out with three assists along the way. Then, in six playoff games, the Princeton grad chipped in with two assists while registering 14 penalty minutes in a losing effort to San Jose.
At 6’4, 228 pounds, Westgarth is not afraid to let his massive size do some talking, although it’s hard to really determine just how good Westgarth is in a Kings uniform when he only averaged 6:15 of ice time per game this season. Having said that, though, the 27-year-old knows his role on this team and fans have been much happier with the big guy’s play during the latter part of the season when he started winning the majority of the fights he got himself into.
Kevin Westgarth is heading into the final year of his contract so 2011-12 will be a massive opportunity to show just how important a player of his style can be to a team of this calibre. Westgarth certainly doesn’t need to play every game as the Kings showed this season but when he does step out onto the ice, he needs to make the most of it. It’s as simple as that.