The Los Angeles Kings have found great success over the last few years, but no one has been consistent in the Dean Lombardi-era than Anze Kopitar. Since his sophomore campaign of 2007-08, the Slovenian has been, for all intents and purposes, the cornerstone of the Kings franchise leading them in points each and every season. In fact, if it weren't for Mike Cammalleri and Alexander Frolov, that streak would have dated back to his rookie year. Nevertheless, Kopitar has proven to be that star Kings fans had longed for, with all due respect to the likes of Dionne, Gretzky and even the man who drafted No. 11, Dave Taylor. But 2013-14 proved to be no different in the impressive career of Anze Kopitar.
This past season, Kopitar led the Kings with 70 points, and while that was his lowest total since 2008-09, his 29 goals was his highest since 2009-10. Best of all, Kopitar's +34 this season was a career-best which essentially means that fans at Staples Center are always prepared to jump out of their seats when No. 11 hits the ice. But like Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar was just as formidable on the power play as he was on even strength.
Of his 29 goals, Kopitar scored 10 of them on the power play - and of his 41 points, 23 of them came on the man-advantage. In addition, Kopitar's nine game-winning goals - two of them coming in overtime - led the Kings during the regular season. Also, his 200 shots was also good enough for third on the club behind Jeff Carter and Justin Williams. But what the 26-year-old offers does not, by any stretch of the imagination, stop on offense.
In addition to his scoring prowess, Kopitar stands at 6' 3, 225 pounds - and while some players that big are reticent to use their size to their advantage, everyone in Los Angeles (in addition to the other 29 NHL cities) know that the 2005 first-rounder does not fit in such a category. Instead, Kopitar dished out 90 hits over the course of his 82 regular-season appearances. While that number may not scream bloody murder - it ranked him 14th on the club - the Slovenian has shown that he can deliver a timely hit when needed and instead of throwing his body all over the opposition ad nauseam.
The faceoff battle has been another area where Anze Kopitar has excelled, accumulating a rating of 53.3 per cent this past season
Defensively, Kopitar was just as reliable. While his 44 blocked shots are a more-than-decent total, Anze Kopitar was the only King this season to commit more takeaways than giveaways. His 52 takeaways were good enough to lead his team, superior to his 41 giveaways.
In the playoffs, it was more of the same. Kopitar led the Kings with 26 points and while his +9 rating and seven power play points didn't land himself near the top of his team's individual totals, those contributions were enough to leave Los Angeles celebrating in mid-June.
While his 46 shots in 26 games was at a slower pace than his regular-season totals, Anze Kopitar did make up for it on the physical side as he dished out 63 hits in the playoffs.
Unlike the regular season, however, Kopitar committed more giveaways to takeaways (15 to 13) while his faceoff percentage dropped ever so slightly from 53.3 to 53.1 per cent. But overall, those decreases are small potatoes in comparison to what Anze Kopitar does right for the Los Angeles Kings. To boot, Kopitar now has a linemate in Marian Gaborik who makes him look even better on the ice than he already has. This combination alone makes Kings fans everywhere ache for the beginning of the 2014-15 campaign.
There really isn't anything that needs to be said that hasn't already been said (and re-emphasized) about Anze Kopitar. One of the few Kings drafted before the Dean Lombardi era, Anze Kopitar was not inclined to be solely a sentimental figure. Being the first Slovenian-born player to be drafted into the NHL certainly is nice, but it amounts to a hill of beans if such a player can't perform. No one had any reason to worry about Anze Kopitar who, this past February, led his native country to their first-ever Olympic appearance in men's hockey.
If Reggie Jackson referred to himself as "the straw the stirred the drink" for the New York Yankees some 35 years ago, then Anze Kopitar does the same recognition and then some for what he has help make the Los Angeles Kings - although, it is a bit more refreshing knowing that the Slovenian isn't the brash self-promoter that the aforementioned Jackson was.
Who says nice guys finish last?
Overall grade for Anze Kopitar: A+