The NHL lockout is now official, and the mass exodus from North America has begun. Several big names have already headed off to Russia, and other countries in Europe, with Anze Kopitar becoming the first member of the Los Angeles Kings to jump ship.
Kopitar is added to a list of superstars that have already left, though most of the other big names will be playing in the KHL in Russia. Kopitar, however, will be headed to Sweden to play for Mora Ishockeyclubb.
Mora is a notch below the top league in Sweden. The Elitserien, which is the no. 1 league in the country, isn’t allowing NHL players to come to play on short term deals, which means don’t expect for much talent to head their way during the lockout. It’s certainly understandable on their part, though.
Kopitar firmly established himself as an elite player in the National Hockey League this past season, finishing with 76 points and eclipsing the 50 assist mark for the first time in his career. He’s the type of player who could have been a Selke Trophy candidate this season.
This isn’t Kopitar’s first go-around in Sweden, having played there prior to joining the Kings in the 2006-07 season. So comfort should not be an issue for him, as he’s already been around the block in Sweden.
Kopitar is likely the first of many Kings that will ship out soon. The list of players that could leave includes the captain, Dustin Brown, who has drawn interest from clubs both in Russia and in Europe.
With the big names, like Kopitar, now headed off to play in other countries, the floodgates have officially opened.