Kings preview: Rankings, predictions, playoff chances and more

The Kings made a big bet that Ilya Kovalchuk still has it, and the results thus far this preseason have been encouraging. AP Photo/Jeff Swinger

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios and more.

Ilya Kovalchuk joins a dynamite veteran core for the Los Angeles Kings that has Stanley Cups on its résumé. Can they win another this season?

How they finished in 2017-18: 45-29-8 (98 points), Finished 12th in NHL, 4th in the Pacific Division

Anze Kopitar had his best season, with 92 points and an MVP nomination. Jonathan Quick was Jonathan Quick again, winning the Jennings Trophy as the Kings were the best defensive team in the league. Drew Doughty did his thing, and earned a Norris Trophy nomination. After missing the playoffs in coach Darryl Sutter's final season, John Stevens took over and the Kings made a 12-point turnaround to make the tourney. Alas, it was a short trip, as the Vegas Golden Knights swept them out of the first round.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 92.5

Best-case scenario: A healthy Jeff Carter and a reinvigorated Ilya Kovalchuk boost the Kings' offense while Doughty and Quick hold down the fort.

Worst-case scenario: It feels unfair to place the blame solely on Kovalchuk, but in this worst-case scenario the Russian sniper turns out to be a bust after his long NHL hiatus. The Kings can't lament about the money wasted. Actually they can. It's a bummer to be wrong, and this aging team might not get another shot in its current iteration.

Forward overview: Kopitar firmed up his status as one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL with a Hart nomination and a Selke win. Dustin Brown was a beneficiary, with 28 goals. Alex Iafallo saw time with them, but the real intrigue is Kovalchuk as a top-line player. The hands are there. The wheels might not be. Carter was limited to 27 games with an injury but scored 22 points. He could slot in with Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson again to revive that effective line, or see time with Kovalchuk and Adrian Kempe. NHL rank: 12th

Defense overview: Doughty got paid, with an eight-year, $88 million contract, and the work he does on the blue line for the Kings is multifaceted and vital, skating 26:50 per game. Jake Muzzin (42 points) had a bounce-back season offensively. Alec Martinez and Derek Forbort are consistent. The smaller the doses of Dion Phaneuf, the better. NHL rank: 4th

Goalie overview: Quick was injured the year the Kings missed the playoffs, but returned to play 64 games with a .921 save percentage. Jack Campbell will serve as the backup. NHL rank: 7th

Special teams: The Kings were 17th in the NHL on the power play at 20.4 percent, and that number should rise significantly with Kovalchuk on the unit. The Kings were the best penalty killing team in the NHL last season at 85.0 percent.

Pipeline overview: The Kings have managed to pad their system well with highly skilled playmaking centers Gabriel Vilardi and Rasmus Kupari over the past two years, making a big push. Meanwhile, Los Angeles also has added prospects by other means, like signing Daniel Brickley and goalie Cal Petersen to bolster a prospect system that was awfully shallow just two years ago. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: After losing four months to injury, Jeff Carter amassed 13 goals and six assists in 20 games to wrap up 2017-18. Don't underestimate what the 33-year-old center can accomplish in a full healthy season, particularly as a key component on a top power play that also includes Kovalchuk and Kopitar. Additionally, winger Tyler Toffoli is bound to rebound from his recent humdrum 47-point campaign, with his talented centerman back in steady play. Read more -- Victoria Matiash

Coach on the hot seat? Sometimes it just takes a different voice. Well, that and a healthy goalie. Stevens was promoted from associate coach to head coach, and the Kings found their smile again. He's a smart coach, a good tactician, and seems to have a handle on the roster.

Bold prediction: Kovalchuk gets 60 points, over half of the them on the power play.