NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three key statistics for the Los Angeles Kings.
[Kings 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown]
1. Kopitar's comeback
Anze Kopitar led the Kings in scoring for the 10th time in the past 11 seasons in 2017-18, won the Selke Award as the forward who best excelled in the defensive aspects of the game for the second time in three seasons (2015-16) and finished third in voting for the Hart Trophy as most valuable player.
Kopitar had an NHL career-high 92 points (35 goals, 57 assists) in 82 games, the most by a Kings player since Wayne Gretzky had 130 points (38 goals, 92 assists) in 81 games in 1993-94.
His 40-point increase from 2016-17, when he had 52 points (12 goals, 40 assists) in 76 games, was tied for sixth in the NHL among players with at least 50 games played. Kopitar also had 31 more points than the Kings' second-leading scorer, (Dustin Brown), the third-largest margin behind Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils (41) and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (38).
Video: Anze Kopitar is named No. 6 on the list
2. A different approach
John Stevens was named coach of the Los Angeles Kings on April 23, 2017, succeeding Darryl Sutter, who led Los Angeles to two Stanley Cup championships (2012, 2014) in more than five seasons as coach. In Stevens' first season, the Kings' shot-based metrics went from the best in the NHL to average, but they were able score more goals without a significant increase in goals allowed.
Los Angeles was plus-3 in shot attempts at 5-on-5, which ranked 16th in the NHL, after leading the League in six consecutive seasons (2011-12 to 2016-17) with an average of plus-746. However, the Kings allowed 202 goals last season (fewest in the NHL), a slight increase from the previous four seasons when they averaged 189.5, and scored 237 goals, their highest total since 2005-06 (243).
3. Can Kovalchuk pick up where he left off?
Ilya Kovalchuk signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract with the Kings on July 1 after playing the past five seasons for SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League.
When he retired from the NHL after the 2012-13 season, Kovalchuk was fourth in the NHL with 816 points (417 goals, 399 assists) in 816 games, behind Jarome Iginla (839), Martin St. Louis (852) and Joe Thornton (939) since his rookie season in 2001-02.
The KHL's translation factor helps indicate what to expect from Kovalchuk. Translation factors are based on how players from other leagues have performed in the NHL, in this case after coming from the KHL or its predecessor, the Russian Super League. They are calculated by taking a player's points-per-game average in the NHL in one season and dividing it by how that player performed in the other league in the preceding season. Based on the 54 players to move from the KHL to the NHL since 2005-06 (minimum 20 games in each league, but not including 2012-13, when there was an unusually high number of NHL players in the KHL), the average player retained 72.7 percent of his scoring when going to the NHL.
With SKA St. Petersburg, Kovalchuk had 285 points (120 goals, 165 assists) in 262 games. Multiplying his KHL scoring rate (1.09 points per game) by the league's translation factor of 0.727, Kovalchuk's estimated output this season in the NHL would be 0.792 points per game, or 65 points in 82 games.
Video: 31 in 31: Los Angeles Kings 2018-19 season preview