Young NHL Stars Meet Up for an Epic Early Season Battle

Mike MillerContributor IINovember 4, 2009

Thursday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, one of the early season battles will be held for on-ice supremacy.  The Los Angeles Kings will face the Pittsburgh Penguins

If you were not aware, and I’m not sure how it’s possible, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup last year.  They defeated the Detroit Red Wings in an epic seven-game series, making Sidney Crosby the youngest cup winning captain in history. 

Crosby is one of, if not the most hyped prospect since Eric Lindros.

Eric Lindros had a career which contained flashes of brilliance including the Legion of Doom Line and a trip to the Stanley Cup finales.  He did fall short of ever reaching the pinnacle and hoisting a cup.  Maybe it was Scott Stevens' fault; maybe he wasn’t that good, maybe it was just never meant to be. 

Sidney Crosby, on the other hand, has delivered.  He has won the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart Trophy, the Lester B. Pearson award and numerous others.  Crosby is on a team that has a ton of talent behind him.  He has an owner (Mario Lemieux) that wants to win and knows how to win.    

Crosby has a coach who gets it.  Dan Bylsma is a former LA Kings player not known for his physical gifts while playing.  He was known for his intelligence and work ethic.  When he was brought in mid season last year as the bench boss for the Penguins few if any believed he would succeed. 

After taking down the Mighty Red Wings, he’s touted as one of the bright young coaching minds in the NHL.

Other weapons in Byslma’s cache include Marc-Andre Fleury (one of the better goalies in the league), Evgeni Malkin (you might have heard of him), a member of the infamous Staal family, Jordan Staal and others.  They march into the Staples Center Loaded for Bear.

Waiting for them, ready to do battle, are the LA Kings led by the current NHL point’s leader, Anze Kopitar. 

In the 2005 NHL draft, two players drafted after and over shadowed by Sidney Crosby’s hype were Anze Kopitar and the highest drafted defenseman that year, LA’s Jack Johnson.

Anze Kopitar is not only a budding superstar in the NHL, he’s the first and only Slovenian player to have played in the NHL.  He brings a remarkable mixture of size, speed, and skill to the ice.  As someone that’s been watching him through out his short career, it’s no surprise he’s leading the NHL in scoring.  Oh, and ladies, he’s got the Hollywood look.  He will probably make a few action blockbusters before it’s all over.

Jack Johnson came over to the Kings in a steal of a trade from the Carolina Hurricanes.  They gave up on him when they couldn’t get him under contract.  Jack is one of the better skating young defenseman on the Kings and in the NHL as a whole. 

When you combine his skating and puck handling abilities with his physical play, he truly is a force to be reckoned with now and for years to come.  Like Anze Jack probably won’t have trouble in the Ladies Department.

In addition to Kopitar and Johnson the Kings will bring out their own cache of weapons.  For starters there’s Captain Canada, Ryan Smyth, last years number two overall, Drew Doughty, the man who almost single-handedly revived goaltending in LA, Jonathan Quick or The Quicker (being a Highlander fan I like to think the teams Quick beats have fallen victim to the Quickening) and a list of other players that make most NHL GM’s jealous. 

This is setting up to be a true clash of the Titans.  Pittsburgh hasn’t been beaten much this year (two losses) and hasn’t lost on the road at all.  The Kings are looking to end that road win streak Thursday night.  They’ve done a fantastic job defending their home turf so far this year as well.

If you can’t go to the game watch it on TV.  If you won’t get the game go find a place that’s broadcasting it.  If no place is broadcasting it find a radio station that has it.  If you have no interest in the game at all, ask yourself why you are reading this. 

There are many games to be played before the playoffs start next spring.  This will serve as an early test for the up and coming Los Angeles Kings.  To be the best you have to beat the best.  There’s no better example of that currently then the Pittsburgh Penguins.