When the Kings drafted Anze Kopitar 11th overall in the 2005 NHL entry draft, the Kings did not know what they were really getting. The first round draft choice had already been playing professional hockey in the Swedish Elite League (5 games in 04-05), and could not play in the 2005-2006 NHL season due to contractual obligations. Instead, the 6’3″ Kings prospect committed himself to the Sodertalje SK of the SEL for another year, rounding 8 goals and 12 assists in 47 games. Kopitar’s ability to play in a professional league at age 16 made it clear that he had huge potential if he would make the decision to commit himself to playing in the NHL.
Anze Kopitar played out the remainder of his contract in Sweden, and moved on to the National Hockey League the following season. He hasn’t looked back. Anze had an impressive training camp, and made the team. The Kings organization was ecstatic to see if his potential could evolve into an elite player that could one day bring the Kings to the promised land. Not only did Anze make the team, it quickly became clear immediately that Kopitar was going to be a special player. In his first NHL game he scored two goals, and the following night had three assists! No folks this was not at all a fluke, the first Slovenian born NHL player Sunday reached a milestone 400th point, at only 24 years young.
First NHL Goals:
Anze is now the 11th highest scoring player in Kings history with 401 points (152 goals, 249 assists) in only his 5th season. He is only 56 points behind Mike Murphy and it is very likely that Kopitar could crack the top 10 in all time scoring in the 2012-2013 season. By the time he is 29 years with the current point pace per season Kopitar averages, he will have over 800 points. That is good for 5th place in all time Kings scoring. Who is in front of him you may ask? Wayne Gretzky. He may be no Gretzky, but Kopitar will only improve his game with time and his average point totals will likely go up. Marcel Dionne is the all time Kings point leader with 1,307 points and just behind him is Luc Robitaille. Mentioning Kopitar with these legendary players just goes to show how special of a player he is. It is very possible that Kopitar could one day become the Kings all time point leader if he sustains his average point totals every year (or improves them), remains healthy, and commits to the Kings for his entire NHL career.
It is awesome having a franchise player with the caliber that Anze Kopitar has. He has truly evolved into an elite two way centerman and is becoming a super star in Los Angeles. What is almost exciting is Kopitar can still take his game to a whole new level. His maximum points in one season have been only up to 81, largely due to some inconsistency and not having an elite winger to play with. With the Kings current roster I think that the most realistic thing for Kopitar to do this season is lead this Kings team past the first round of the playoffs. Another possibility is him winning the Lady Byng trophy for the player who exudes the most sportsmanship and overall quality of play.
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