Coming into the season, and especially into the playoffs, we already knew Anze Kopitar was an elite level talent. But he wasn’t quite the household name that some of the other premier forwards in the game are.
That isn’t the case anymore, though, as Kopitar has used his success during this fantastic Los Angeles Kings playoff run to leap into the conversation of being one of the top few forwards in the National Hockey League.
We know about his offensive game. Kopitar posted 76 points during the regular season, leading the team in points, as well as both goals (25) and assists (51). He also added 26 of those points on an inconsistent power play.
Where Kopitar doesn’t get enough credit is for his defensive play. The big center is among the better defensive forwards in the NHL. He’s used his size to his advantage this season, in both the physical game and winning faceoffs. He won draws at a 54 percent clip during the regular season. He’ll be in the Selke Trophy discussion very soon.
As the Stanley Cup Playoffs have gone on, Kopitar has just gotten better. Just as he did in the regular season, Kopi is leading the team on offense, while still playing a strong defensive game and winning the big draws.
His skill has been on display several times this postseason, but he really showcased his hands on his overtime goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday night. Kopitar undressed future Hall of Fame, and possibly greatest-of-all-time, goaltender Martin Brodeur on a breakaway to give the Kings the 1-0 series edge.
Initially limited to being listed and performing solely like an offensive threat, Kopitar’s game has evolved to the point where he can be considered the total package. He has as much skill as any forward in the NHL on the offensive end, but his defense has been stellar and it’s helped him to find great success in these playoffs.
They may be a no. 8 seed, but it’s no accident that the Kings are here. Kopitar leads a great young nucleus of players and still has growing to do himself. He’s going to be a fun player to watch for a long time.