Los Angeles Kings: 3 Reasons Anze Kopitar is a Superstar
Jack Skille, Devin Setoguchi, Gilbert Brule, Luc Bourdon, Benoit Pouliot and Jack Johnson: What do these players have in common?
In 2005, they were all drafted ahead of Slovenian Center Anze Kopitar.
Looking back, it's really not all that crazy to say that Kopitar could have been drafted No. 2 overall behind Sidney Crosby. But there are a lot of strange things about the 2005 Draft that we could talk about aside from this—Stastny in the second round? Letang in the third? Yandle in the fourth?
Point is, in the last five years in the "small market" of Los Angeles, not a lot of folks have noticed the diamond buried out west that is Anze Kopitar. He is a big, young, skilled center, with several qualities that would make him a "superstar" by default in a place like Pittsburgh or Detroit.
But make no mistake, Anze Kopitar is a superstar. The fans of Los Angeles know it, the team knows it, the organization knows it. and with the Kings getting better and making more postseason progress, the league better get ready to know it.
The 24-year-old has the skills, he has the attitude and the success is right around the corner.
Since joining the Kings as a rookie in 2006-07, Kopitar has led the team in points four of his five professional seasons. The only season in which he did not was his rookie season where he still had 61 points and was third on the team.
Kopitar has been as consistent as they come in every aspect of the game. He has averaged roughly 30 goals a season, 43 assists and points in the low 70s. He has also stayed healthy.
Until his season-ending ankle injury last season in Game 75, Kopitar had played a staggering 330 games in a row. It's one thing to be a consistent producer, but it's a whole other thing to be a consistent producer who is healthy and on the ice.
Just ask Martin Havlat or Marian Hossa.
Another overlooked stat is his extremely low penalty minute total. Kopitar tends to keep himself out of the box and on the ice. Right where the team needs him.
If you don't think his stats are all that impressive, it's wise to remember that he has been doing this on an L.A. team that finished near the bottom of the league three of the last five seasons.
Kopitar is gifted with good size, standing 6'3 and weighing in at 225. However, it's how he uses it that makes him such a huge threat.
Kopitar has been a pillar of the Kings' offensive style since Terry Murray has taken over. His strong puck possession and stick handling makes him a nightmare for defenders to take on. He truly can take over a shift along the halfwall and on the cycle.
And when he strings those shifts together, you are looking at a long game in the defensive zone.
It's no question he holds the puck well, but Kopitar has also excelled in distribution of the puck as well as finishing. Which has been of benefit in the stat column, and to his fellow teammates.
And a more recent development in the young forwards game is his consistent two-way play. He has made considerable strides in the defensive portion of the game. Kopitar is viable in pretty much any situation, be it penalty kill, power play or even strength.
Would it be all that crazy to consider Kopitar as a future Selke winner? I can tell you many Kings fans wouldn't be surprised, and apparently neither would some hockey pundits, considering Kopitar finished ninth in Selke voting last season, and 10th in Lady Byng.
He was the first Slovenian-born player in the league. He has been an alternate captain with the team since 2008. He is a two-time All Star and twice has been voted most popular player on the team.
Are these big things? No, not really. But they add an element and a layer to Kopitar that many other players might not bring to the table.
He has a national achievement of being the first Slovenian-born player to play in the NHL, which is inspiring many back in his home country. He is popular in the locker room, a leader in the locker room and also popular amongst Kings fans and media.
With more and more people turning their attention towards Los Angeles, it's only a matter of time before they realize this superstar exists not in Hollywood, but under the roof of the Staples Center.