In 2005, Anze Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL after he was drafted in the first round, 11th overall, by the LA Kings. He has since been a force to be reckoned with in the league, racking up 886 points (311-575=886), all while wearing lucky number 11.
On Monday, as the Kings hosted the Calgary Flames, the Kings captain competed in his 1,000 NHL game. Though he hasn't had a lot of time to process the meaning of the milestone, he recognizes how surreal his career has been.
"I've been just blessed to be able to do this," he said to LA Kings Insider. "Even talking to my mom last night, it was like, 'who would've thought you would've made it to 1,000 games? Who would've thought you'd have made it to the NHL at first?'"
Well, we're sure glad he did.
Kopitar may be the second Kings player this season to reach the 1,000 games milestone, but he's the first from his draft class to do so.
"It's going to be really cool for me playing in the 1,000th game just because I have experienced a few of my current teammates and my former teammates hit it," Kopitar said to the NHL. "Just to be in that position is pretty cool."
The two-way forward has led the Kings in scoring in 10 of the past 11 seasons and is well respected around the league.
"He's been a good player for a long time, the reason they won a couple Cups, so it's impressive that he got to 1,000 that quickly," Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. "A special player, and a tough player to play against, too."
Jonathan Quick, who was drafted in 2005 alongside Kopitar, is constantly impressed by how well-rounded the forward is.
"The most impressive thing about him and why I like him so much is how responsible he is and how he helps the defensemen and helps the goalie, always low, covering his guy," Quick said to The Athletic.
"He just brings such a calm presence to the locker room and to the ice, especially high-pressure situations where you're trying to win games to get into the playoffs or win playoff games," Quick added. "He's just so consistent and calm and just does his job."
Video: CGY@LAK: Kings honor Kopitar for 1,000th game
At 31, Kopitar is showing no signs of slowing down. Just last year, he was a finalist for the Hart Trophy after an impressive season and he continues to lead the Kings in offensive contributions.
Among the Kings this season, he ranks first in points, assists and short-handed goals and is tied for first in both goals and game-winning goals. As the Kings recreate their roster moving forward, it will be around the 6'3" Slovenian.
"I'm very fortunate to be here for an extended period of time," Kopitar said to the Athletic. "There's not a place I'd rather be."
Kopitar will be honored on Saturday in the Kings' final regular season game of the year.
Be at STAPLES Center for the celebration!