As the captain for the LA Kings, Anze Kopitar failed to eclipse 25 goals the past two seasons. Can he achieve that in the upcoming campaign?
Anze Kopitar has been one of the most productive forwards in the LA Kings franchise. Rightfully so, he’s the team’s captain and was an integral part of the organization’s two Stanley Cup runs in 2012 and 2014. But he’s also 33 years old now. He signed an eight-year contract extension back in January 2016, keeping him in LA through the 2023-2024 season.
He’s two years removed from a 92-point (35 G, 57 A) season, but he’s posted back-to-back 60+ seasons. Kopitar’s statistics are intriguing to look over, as the even years have not been kind to him, scoring 10 goals in the shortened 2012-2013 campaign. From there, he scored 16 goals in 2014-2015 and 12 goals in 2016-2017.
He broke that trend in 2018-2019, scoring 22 goals.
The former 11th overall pick in 2005 is likely to play with Alex Iafallo and Dustin Brown as his wingers atop the first line to begin the year. As the season progresses, and with the potential for prospects to see more playing time, that could change. Iafallo could be moved down to the second line in favor of someone like Arthur Kaliyev.
Or a 36-year-old Dustin Brown could move down as well in favor of one of the kids.
In terms of Kopitar’s production, he accounted for a 53.0 Corsi-for percentage and a 50.3 expected-goals-for percentage last season. It was a remarkable improvement over the 44.6 expected-goals-for percentage the previous season, but neither year was up to Kopitar’s standards.
One area that will be critical for his production comes on the power play. Two years ago, Kopitar scored seven goals with 20 assists on the man advantage. For his efforts, he won the Selke Award and finished within the top three of the Hart Trophy voting. Despite being in the league for 14 years, Kopitar still has plenty left in the tank.
Much rides on the Kings’ overall ability to finish, which contributed to his lower production, particularly in the assists department. Kopitar’s success will likely hinge on Drew Doughty returning to Norris Trophy form, as the duo accounted for 20 goals forced in each of the last two seasons with both of them on-ice.
If Doughty can return to a 60-point player in the upcoming campaign, Kopitar’s stats are likely to see a boost as well if the first powerplay unit can produce more than it has lately. Should that happen, there’s no reason why Kopitar isn’t capable of scoring 25 goals with 45-50 assists.
Doughty and Kopitar are two of a handful of veteran players left on the roster from the Stanley Cup victory teams. But they’ll be critical pieces in helping the prospects develop in what is hopefully the next great Kings’ squad before their respective contracts expire.