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Anze Kopitar: What He Did Well

32 G, 45 A, -15, 22 PIM

I don't know if you know this, but: Anze Kopitar is pretty good. He spends most of the game with the puck on his stick and is masterful at creating opportunities for himself and his teammates. Probably my favorite thing about Kopitar is his ability to change his game to counteract his defender's tactics. Kopitar thrived his first season because he outwaited his opponents. Most of the time when a defenseman tried to stand him up, he simply went around them and wrapped around the net. From there he could find Dustin Brown or Lubomir Visnovsky for a one-timer and an easy goal. This season, however, defenders changed their methods a little bit by forcing Anze Kopitar to the middle of the ice and towards a waiting helper. Kopitar counteracted that by shooting more. He decided that if the defender is going to give him that shot, he might as well take it. The result? Kopitar became a much more prolific scorer* while still setting up his teammates at a consistent rate. His first season, Kopitar had 20 goals. This season, he had 32.

*A lot of people may not realize it, but Kopitar does have an amazing shot. It's hard and quick off his stick, but not very accurate. He's worked on it, however, and it's quickly becoming a strength for him.

Another thing Kopitar improved upon was his rapport with Dustin Brown. In their first season, Kopitar was the puck handler and Dustin Brown was the net crasher and that was the extent of their relationship. Brown picked his game up noticeably when Kopitar injured his back at the end of '06-07 because he was actually given the puck and forced to take responsibility for his play. This was important because it showed Marc Crawford and Anze Kopitar that Brown could be relied on as an equal member of their partnership. This season, Kopitar passed the puck much more willingly to Brown, who could then either make his own play or give it back to Kopitar for a scoring opportunity. This change in their relationship not only improved both players but created an uncertainty in the minds of defenders that they could now exploit.

Kopitar was the engine on the 1st power play unit and led the team in scoring when up a man. The Kings were tied down by a certain, let's say "immobility" on the power play and were thus forced to do most of their damage through their forwards. Kopitar mostly played at the Joe Thornton spot, along the side of the boards in line with the faceoff circle. From there he could either pass it up to the point, throw it across to Cammalleri, or step in front and take his own shot. He had a little trouble when a defender would challenge him and get inside his stick and that's something he can improve on, but overall Kopitar is a valuable member of the Kings' power play.

One interesting thing to note is Kopitar's penalty kill play. He did not play on the penalty kill very often so he could rest, but when he did he was pretty effective. Despite playing less time than Jeff Giuliano, Kopitar still managed to end up tied for 2nd in points while on the penalty kill. His value on the penalty kill mostly lies on his ability to steal the puck, which he surpisingly led the team in. (I'd have bet any amount of money that Frolov would have the most takeaways on the team.) More importantly, Kopitar did this while taking very few penalties (11 on the year.) I wouldn't classify his defensive play as great quite yet, but it's about where you'd expect to 20 year-old to be.

Overall, Kopitar is awesome. Kopitar managed to build on his first season while adjusting to the NHL game. A lot of young players shoot out of the gate because they don't know that they're not supposed to be able to skate through an entire NHL team; when teams adjust to them, they often have trouble adjusting back. Kopitar has changed his game and has gone from a budding star to a legitimate NHL talent.