Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday LAKings.com will countdown the Top 15 moments from the LA Kings improbable run to their 2nd Stanley Cup Championship.
Anze Kopitar left Slovenia at the age of 16 to pursue a hockey career on the North American landscape. Now, at the age of 26, Kopitar has blossomed into a household name throughout the world’s hockey community, while becoming a hero in Los Angeles.
Kopitar tapped LA’s hockey scene much like he broke the seal for Slovenians in the NHL, becoming the first player from his native country to play in the league when he debuted with the Kings in 2006.
From the moment Kopitar was drafted on July 30, 2005 in Ottawa, Ontario, the Kings knew they had claimed a keeper. It hasn’t been all glitz and glamour for Kopitar in a Kings uniform, who developed, matured, and persevered as an NHL player during some of the club’s darker days.
We’ve had the pleasure of watching him grow before our very eyes.
During the postseason, Kopitar led the NHL in scoring, amassing 26 points (5G, 21A) as the Kings fought for, and claimed their second Stanley Cup Championship in three seasons.
It was far from an easy ride, though. The Kings’ push to glory took the roster and it’s fan base through a tumultuous and exhausting 26-game escapade.
If you needed a shoulder to lean on, Kopitar was there. The Kings’ forward chimed in with an outstanding point-per-game average during the trying ride.
To begin the playoffs, Kopitar was undoubtedly the hottest forward for the Kings, tearing up the opposition for 15 points (4G, 11A) during the first 10 games of the postseason.
This included Kopitar’s game-winning goal against the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal at SAP Center, which ultimately eliminated San Jose from postseason play.
ANZE BURIES SJ
Kopitar was left off of the scoreboard in just seven of the Kings’ 26 postseason contests. When Kopitar wasn’t triggering the score sheet, he was consistent and dependable without the puck, always taking upon a strong and responsible defensive role in the neutral zone and in the Kings’ zone.
People noticed, which is hard to do when you play professional hockey in Los Angeles. Kopitar was nominated for the NHL’s Frank J. Selke Trophy this season, an award given to a forward who best exhibits skill on the defensive side of their game.
As said by the Kings’ Fox Sports West color commentator Jim Fox on April 28 during the Kings’ Game 6 against the San Jose Sharks, Anze Kopitar has just about every single tool in his shed:
“Some plays are smarts, some plays are strength, and some plays are skill. He’s making plays all over the place.” – JIM FOX on Kopitar
Kopitar’s value to hockey in the city of Los Angeles stretches far past the Kings’ miraculous run to their second Stanley Cup Championship this season.
When the Kings gave him a shot in 2005, Kopitar gave this franchise hope, and a future.
Hey look, it paid off.
We’ll stick with you, kid. Even on a bad hair day.
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