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Defense never rests with Kings' Kopitar

Los Angeles center emerging as favorite to win Selke Trophy

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

Anze Kopitar has won the Stanley Cup twice, but this finally could be the year he wins the Selke Trophy.

The center has been Mr. Everything for the Los Angeles Kings for the better part of the past decade, and has long been heralded as one of the top defensive forwards in the League. He was a finalist for the award in each of the past two seasons, finishing behind Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron both times.

Kopitar has led the Kings in scoring for each of the past eight seasons. This season he has 20 goals and a team-high 38 assists and 58 points, but his value goes beyond his offense. Kopitar is one of the League's best faceoff men, winning 52.6 percent (759-for-1,442) this season, including 54.2 percent in the defensive zone.

Kopitar ranks sixth in SAT percentage (shot attempts differential at 5-on-5) among players who have played at least 30 games at 57.62 percent.

Video: LAK@NYR: Kopitar scores in each period for hat trick

He also plays in every situation. Of his 20:53 ice time per game, more than two minutes each have come on the power play and on the penalty kill. It shouldn't be understated how big of a role he plays defensively for the Kings, who have allowed the fewest goals per game (2.3) in the League. Kopitar is a big reason the Kings are in first place in the Pacific Division and looking like a Stanley Cup contender.

After signing an eight-year, $80 million contract extension earlier this season, which will keep Kopitar in Los Angeles through 2023-24, coach Darryl Sutter said, "He's worth every penny of it."


Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

It's no surprise the three-time winner who has won the Selke two straight years is again one of the favorites to win. He has taken the most faceoffs in the League by a wide margin, and has won 57.3 percent, including 54.8 percent in the defensive zone. Bergeron's SAT is 54.51 and he ranks third in the League with an 8.1 SAT relative percentage (ratio of his on-ice SAT vs. off-ice SAT).

Video: BOS@FLA: Bergeron collects two goals in the 1st

He's also having one of his finest offensive seasons; he has 61 points and his 28 goals are three shy of his career high. Bergeron has been a mainstay on the Bruins penalty kill, averaging more than two minutes per game.

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

Toews always is regarded as one of the best defensive forwards in the game. He won the Selke for the 2012-13 season and has been a finalist each of the past two seasons. Toews has won 58.8 percent of his faceoffs this season.

He quietly has had a good offensive season with 24 goals and 48 points, and often matches up against the other team's best lines. Toews also averages almost 1:30 of shorthanded ice time per game and has three goals and five shorthanded points.

ALSO IN THE MIX: Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks; Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild; Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks

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