After Anze Kopitar’s career year of 35 goals and 92 points, LA Kings fans can breathe easy. Many people felt that Kopitar, at age 29, was already beginning his decline as an NHL player. In the 2017-2018 season, he proved them wrong.
Anze Kopitar is the best player since Wayne Gretzky to dawn the LA Kings logo and he will be the best for a long time. He has led the LA Kings to 2 Stanley Cups and has been the teams leading scorer in all but one season of his career.
However, Kopitar didn’t do it alone. Every offensive line in hockey is made of three players (A centerman and two wingers). Here are the best wingers Kopitar has ever played alongside.
Marian Gaborik – 2014 Playoff run, the rest… eh.
Alex Iafallo – He has only played a season in the NHL but being able to keep up with Kopitar and Brown, he deserved a mention. If I remake this list in 5 years time Iafallo may be on it.
5. Alexander Frolov (‘05-’10) –
Frolov was selected 20th overall by the LA Kings in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He was an offensive dynamo who played well on a struggling LA Kings team.
Frolov was Kopitar’s linemate after the ‘04-‘05 NHL lockout and you can see the difference in his point totals playing with the young Slovenian centerman. It was on Kopitar’s wing that Frolov would break the 30-goal barrier twice (35) in ‘06-’07 and (32) in ‘08-’09.
The two seemed to gel together immediately though Frolov began to decline on the tail-end of his tenure with the LA Kings. Kopitar would remain top line center but Frolov would bounce around in the middle 6 before ultimately leaving the LA Kings and eventually the NHL
Frolov scored 130 of his 175 career goals on Kopitar’s side.
4. Michael Cammalleri (‘05-’08 and ‘17) –
Cammalleri was a high profile scorer for the LA Kings but it wasn’t always that way. In his first two seasons with the LA Kings (‘02-’03 and ‘03-’04), he only managed 14 goals and 23 points. In ‘05-’06 he was introduced to 18-year-old centerman Anze Kopitar
In the next 3 seasons on Kopitar’s wing, Cammalleri would manage 26 goals in 80 games, 34 goals in 81 games, and 19 goals in 63 games. A very interesting up-tic.
Cammalleri would return to the LA Kings in the 2017 NHL season signing a 1-year $1M deal and returned to a line with Brown and Kopitar, he didn’t have the same impact from 11 years earlier, he wasn’t expected to, but after only Seven points in 15 games he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Jussi Jokinen
3. Ryan Smyth (‘09-’11) –
Had he spent more time on Kopitar’s wing I feel that Smyth would be higher on this list. Smyth was one of the best LA Kings lines this millennium and was an integral part of Kopitar’s 34 goal 81 points ’09-’10 season.
Ryan Smyth did what Brown did this year. He screened the goaltender, was an option for tip-ins and redirects which fits Kopitar beautifully. It gives him an option to shoot knowing the goaltender isn’t able to see or to move the puck right to the front for Smyth to have a wide-open net to score.
Smyth scored 45 goals and 100 points for the LA Kings in his 2 seasons on Kopitar’s line. It would be the last year that Smyth would break the 20 goal barrier as he’d only play 3 more seasons with the Edmonton Oilers. The LA Kings got Colin Fraser in return who would score the first goal of the Stanley Cup Finals for the LA Kings in 2012.
2. Dustin Brown (‘05-Present) –
Brownie and Kopi’s careers technically began the same year and though they haven’t always played together, they are the two remaining players from the LA Kings Dark Ages. (2002-2008)
They’ve won 2 cups together, the first time around they had identical goal and point totals. After Brown’s game started to fall off though he’d bounce around the lineup but somehow always finding his way back to the top line.
Brown found his footing again at Kopitar’s side and looks to replicate and build on his rebound season. Brown did the “Smyth job” this season as we talked about earlier. When he plays this way and when he’s physical (see Brown/Sedin hit 2012 playoffs) he is a beast.
We saw Brown begin to shy away from the front of the net later on in the season and there’s a direct correlation with how his goal and point totals look. His best months were October 12 points, March 12 points, and April 5 goals in 3 games.
Brown started off the season screening goaltenders, batting in loose pucks in front, and redirecting shots. This fell off around the Christmas break and only managed 2 goals and 6 points in January.
Brown and Kopitar can play to each other’s strengths which makes them ideal for each other. It’s just when Brown stops complimenting Kopitar that one -or both- of them falls into trouble.
1. Justin Williams (‘09-’15) –
Surprise surprise. It’s Justin Williams who gets the top spot here and it’s well deserved. Williams played on Kopitar’s right wing every season they were in LA. While Williams wasn’t the goal scorer he was in Carolina he complimented Kopitar in an astounding way.
Williams did score but it was the intangibles that made him such a great linemate for Anze. He could be the playmaker and let Kopitar shoot, he was an option to shoot. He was ⅓ of the LA Kings most dangerous line -until That 70’s Line– with Kopitar and Smyth.
Williams best season on the LA Kings came in the ‘11-’12 season he almost eclipsed 60 points and won his second Stanley Cup. Who could forget his behind-the-back no-look pass to center for Kopitar to break in and score to end Game 1 in OT?
Williams scored 103 goals and 266 points playing 7 seasons with Anze Kopitar. He won 2 Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe trophy in that time. Williams has been a presence the LA Kings have missed ever since he left.