Kopitar's Play Big Part of Kings Success This Season
By Patrick Hoffman
**Originally Drafted on May 9, 2018**
Last season, everything that could go wrong for the Los Angeles Kings did.
Their franchise netminder, Jonathan Quick, missed much of the season with an injury, their top players had down seasons, their defense was not as tight and because of that, the club ultimately missed the playoffs.
Fast forward to this past season and things were much different in La La Land. Despite getting swept by the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the playoffs, this season could be deemed as a successful one for the Kings.
While the team being better, healthier, and having Quick between the pipes all contributed to the Kings' turnaround season, there is one main reason why this team bounced back this year.
That would be the play of their All-Star forward and captain Anze Kopitar. Kopitar, 30, a Hart Trophy Finalist this season as the league's most valuable player, bounced back in a big way this season and helped the Kings to a 98-point season and got them back into the postseason after missing it last season.
Far and away, Kopitar was the team's best player this year. According to the team's web site, here is what he accomplished this season:
- Set career-highs in goals (35), assists (57) and points (92)
- Led all NHL forwards in time on ice per game (22:05)
- Became the first Kings player to surpass the 90-point plateau since Wayne Gretzky (1993-94)
Kopitar was back to using his subtle speed, soft hands, and accurate shot to destroy opposing defense and goaltenders this season. He was simply filthy this season when it came to putting the puck on the net, as can be seen here.
He also showed what a great passer he was because anyone that played on his line seemed to also put up a decent number of points. Kopitar has great vision and because of how long he can hold onto the puck, he is able to create space and find an open man to put the puck in the net.
The Kings' captain also showed once again that he is one of the league's best two way players. In addition to being a Hart Trophy Finalist this year, he is also a Selke Trophy Finalist as the league's best defense forward.
A Selke Trophy winner in 2016, Kopitar knows how to backcheck, break up passes, and be in the right position to create turnovers and steal the puck from opposing players. It is these skills that also make him one of the best penalty killers in the game.
Lastly, he seemed to be a lot more comfortable in his own skin this season. After replacing Dustin Brown as the team's captain prior to the 2016-17 season, he seemed a bit uncomfortable as Brown was one of the team's most popular players both on the ice and in the locker room.
This season, Kopitar was one year wiser and handled the captaincy like a veteran. He may not be the loudest guy in the room, but he certainly led this team with his fine play on the ice.
Overall, Kopitar was a beast this season. Should he and the rest of the team get closer to being who they were just a few seasons ago, next year could end hp being a great one in Hollywood.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.