Anže Kopitar

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Anže Kopitar
Kopitar2015.jpg
Kopitar in 2015
Born (1987-08-24) 24 August 1987 (age 28)
Jesenice, SR Slovenia, YUG
Height 6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
Weight 228 lb (103 kg; 16 st 4 lb)
Position Centre
Shoots Left
NHL team
Former teams
Los Angeles Kings
HK Kranjska Gora
Södertälje SK
Mora IK
National team  Slovenia
NHL Draft 11th overall, 2005
Los Angeles Kings
Playing career 2004–present
Website http://www.anzeseleven.com

Anže Kopitar (pronounced [anˈʒɛ kɔˈpiːtaɾ] ahn-ZHEH ko-PEE-tahr) (born 24 August 1987) is a Slovenian professional ice hockey centre currently serving as captain for the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League (NHL). The 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL upon making his debut in 2006. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, leading them in scoring every year except his rookie season.[1] Following the 2015–16 season, he was named the Kings' captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016, as well as the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for gentlemanly play the same year.

Kopitar played junior hockey for his hometown team HK Acroni Jesenice before moving to Sweden at age 16 to play in a more competitive league. He spent one season with the junior teams of the Södertälje SK organization, and then with the senior team of the top-level Elitserien. He moved to North America to join the Kings in 2006, one year after he was drafted, and finished fourth in the Calder Memorial Trophy voting for the league's top rookie. Kopitar's offensive talent was immediately apparent when he joined the Kings, though his defensive developed in later seasons and he has become recognized for his two-way play, with two nominations for the Selke Trophy and one win reflecting this.[2] Praised as one of the best players in the League, Kopitar won the Stanley Cup championship with the Kings in 2012 and 2014, leading the playoffs in points on both occasions with 20 (tied with teammate and former captain Dustin Brown) and 26 points, respectively.[2] Internationally, Kopitar has represented the Slovenian national team in several junior and senior tournaments, as well as at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Personal life[edit]

Kopitar was born in Jesenice, Slovenia (then part of Yugoslavia) to Matjaž and Mateja Kopitar.[3] Matjaž played hockey for HK Acroni Jesenice, winning the league title three times, and was a member of the Yugoslav and Slovenian national teams.[4][5] He also coached HK Acroni Jesenice of the Austrian Hockey League during the 2006–07 season[6] and the Slovenian national team from 2010 until 2015.[5][7] Mateja worked at the family restaurant, Hrušica, a village about five kilometres from Jesenice.[8]

When Kopitar was four, his father first taught him how to skate; Matjaž built an ice rink in their backyard in Hrušica, and Kopitar would play there whenever he could.[4] Kopitar has a brother, Gašper, who is five years younger. Gašper also plays hockey; when the Kopitar family moved to Los Angeles, Gašper joined a junior team sponsored by the Kings. He then played for the Portland Winterhawks of the major junior Western Hockey League (WHL) and the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League (USHL), before turning professional with Mora IK in Sweden.[9][10] Kopitar's grandmother taught English at a local high school, and both Kopitar and his brother learned to speak English from her.[11] Kopitar speaks five languages: Slovene, Serbian, German, Swedish, and English.[12] He enjoys playing football and is a declared supporter of Slovenian football club NK Maribor.[13][14] Kopitar is renown in Slovenia due to his hockey exploits, with a government-sponsored website declaring after he won the Stanley Cup in 2012 that he was "the most recognised Slovenian sportsman."[15] He also hosts an annual charity golf tournament that benefits various groups, mainly youths.[16]

Kopitar lived with his parents until moving to Sweden, where he lived alone in an apartment.[17] After his first season in the NHL, the rest of Kopitar's family joined him in Los Angeles; Kopitar currently lives in Manhattan Beach.[18] Kopitar met Ines Dominc in Slovenia in 2005; they married in July 2013.[19] Their first child, a daughter named Neža, was born on 14 March 2015.[20]

Playing career[edit]

European career[edit]

In 2002, Kopitar began playing for the youth team of his hometown, HK Acroni Jesenice. He split the year between the team's under-18 and junior clubs, and also appeared in 11 games for the senior team HK Kranjska Gora of the Slovenian Ice Hockey League. Kopitar had four goals and four assists in the senior league, and recorded 76 points in 14 games for the Jesenice under-18 team and 27 points in 20 games for the junior club.[21] He led the Slovenian Ice Hockey League in scoring at the age of 16, and Swedish scout Lars Söder recruited Kopitar for the Elitserien in 2004 (Söder had originally discovered Kopitar when he was 13 at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Vuokatti, Finland).[22]

The Slovenian Ice Hockey League did not have a high enough skill level, so Kopitar decided that if he wanted to improve his career prospects, he would have to leave the country.[17] He was offered a chance to play in Sweden for Södertälje SK, eventually joining their junior team where he led the League in scoring, with 49 points (28 goals, 21 assists) in 30 games. Prior to the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar was ranked the top European skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.[23] After his first season in Sweden, he was chosen 11th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2005 Draft. Unlike most top-ranked prospects, Kopitar was not at the draft, but in Sweden playing in preseason games. Some members of the team had a party for the draft, including Niclas Bergfors, who was selected 23rd overall by the New Jersey Devils.[8] Prior to the NHL Draft, Kopitar was also selected in the CHL Import Draft by the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League (WHL).[24] He declined to move to North America, however, hoping to further his development by continuing to play against professionals in the Elitserien, rather than against major junior players in the WHL.[25]

Los Angeles Kings[edit]

Kopitar during a practice with the Kings in 2007

Kopitar signed an entry-level contract with the Kings on 7 September 2005, but returned to play in Sweden for another season.[26] The following year, in 2006, he accepted an invitation to Los Angeles' rookie camp. He made his NHL debut on 6 October 2006, against the Anaheim Ducks and scored two goals in the game.[25] In January 2007, he was named to the NHL YoungStars Game, an event included at the All-Star Game festivities; Kopitar recorded two goals and three assists.[27] Kopitar completed his first NHL season third among rookies in scoring, behind Evgeni Malkin and Paul Stastny, with 20 goals and 41 assists for 61 points.[28] It marked the fifth-highest point total by a Kings rookie, and the highest since Luc Robitaille in 1986–87.[27] He finished fourth in voting for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year.[29] Kopitar was awarded the Mark Bavis Memorial Award as the best first-year member of the Kings and was also named the Kings' Most Popular Player.[30]

The following season, 2007–08, Kopitar was selected to represent the Western Conference at the 56th NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta, his first all-star game appearance. He was the youngest player in the game, nearly two years younger than the second-youngest player, Paul Stastny (Sidney Crosby was younger, but had to withdraw prior to the game due to injury).[27] Kopitar finished the regular season with 32 goals and 45 assists for 77 points; he led the Kings in assists and points and was second in goals.[31] Kopitar won the Bill Libby Memorial Award as the most valuable player on the Kings.[30]

Early in the 2008–09 season, on 11 October 2008, Kopitar signed a seven-year contract extension with the Kings worth $47.6 million. The contract would keep Kopitar with the team until the conclusion of the 2015–16 season.[32] He finished the season with 66 points in 82 games, leading the Kings in both assists and points, while again finishing second in goals scored.[33] The following season, Kopitar scored his first career NHL hat-trick (3 goals in one game) on 22 October 2009 against the Dallas Stars.[34] He finished the 2009–10 season with a career-high 34 goals and 81 points.[35] For the second time in his career, Kopitar won the Bill Libby Memorial Award as the Kings' most valuable player, and led the team in scoring for the third-straight year.[36] Kopitar made his Stanley Cup playoff debut that season, as the Kings qualified for the post-season for the first time since 2002.[37] The Kings lost in the Western Conference Quarterfinals to the Vancouver Canucks, and Kopitar finished tied for third on the team with five points in six games.[38]

Kopitar with Mora IK in 2012

The 2010–11 season saw Kopitar play in his 325th consecutive NHL game, which set a new Kings team record, passing Marcel Dionne on 15 March 2011.[39] However eleven days later, Kopitar's season and ironman streak came to an abrupt end at 330 games after he suffered a broken ankle.[40] Despite the injury setback, Kopitar led the team in scoring for the fourth straight season with 73 points, and was named the team's most valuable player for the second time.[41] In the 2011–12 season, Kopitar led the Kings in scoring with 76 points, including a career-best 51 assists.[42] The Kings won the Stanley Cup as playoff champions, their first title in team history. Kopitar finished tied with Kings captain Dustin Brown to lead the team in playoff scoring, with each having 20 points from 20 games played.[43] Kopitar became the first Slovenian-born player to win the Stanley Cup.[10] In recognition of this, Kopitar was named as the 2012 Slovenian male Athlete of the Year.[44]

The 2012–13 NHL season was delayed due to the NHL lockout, so Kopitar joined his younger brother Gašper on Mora IK of the Swedish second-tier league HockeyAllsvenskan, signing a contract with the team for the 2012–13 season.[45] He played 31 games for Mora, scoring 34 points, before the NHL lockout ended in January 2013. A shortened, 48-game NHL season commenced, Kopitar recorded 42 points in 47 games to once again lead the Kings in scoring, and was named the team's best defensive player.[46]

The 2013–14 season saw Kopitar lead the team in scoring for the seventh consecutive season, with 70 points, and was named both the team's most valuable player and best defensive player. He also was a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy as best defensive forward in the NHL for the first time.[46] In the playoffs, Kopitar led the entire league in scoring, recording 26 points in 26 games, as the Kings won their second Stanley Cup championship.[47] The following season, Kopitar tied Marcel Dionne as the only player in Kings history to lead the team in scoring eight times, having scored 16 goals and 48 assists for 64 points.[48] Kopitar was a finalist for the Selke Trophy again, and also for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded for sportsmanship.[49]

During the 2015–16 season Kopitar signed an eight-year contract extension with the Kings. It would pay him an average of $10 million per season until the end of the 2023–24 season.[50] He finished the season with 74 points, setting a team record by leading the Kings in scoring for a ninth consecutive season. He was named a finalist for both the Selke and Lady Byng Trophies again.[51]

On 16 June 2016, Kopitar was named the captain of the Kings, replacing Dustin Brown.[52]

International play[edit]

Kopitar with Slovenia at the 2008 IIHF World Championship

Kopitar first played in an international tournament when he participated in the Division I (second level) tournament of the 2003 IIHF World U18 Championships for the Slovenian national junior team. He appeared in five games and recorded three points.[53] The following year he appeared in the 2004 U18 tournament and the 2004 World Junior Championships. Slovenia competed in Division I at both tournaments, one level below the top division. Kopitar scored six goals and eight points in five games during the under-18 tournament and finished second overall for goals scored and third for points, leading Slovenia in both categories;[54][55] at the World Juniors he had one goal and one assist in five games .[56]

In 2005 Kopitar appeared in three international tournaments for Slovenia; he took part in the U18 Championship, World Juniors, and the World Championship.[22] Slovenia competed at the Division I level for both junior tournaments, but at the top level for the senior championship. At the 2006 World Championship he played for Slovenia at the top level and recorded three goals and nine points in six games, tying for fifth among scoring leaders.[57]

Slovenia qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi; as the qualifying games were held during the NHL season Kopitar was unable to participate, though his father Matjaž coached the team and Gašper played in the matches.[58] Though Gašper was part of the team that secured qualification for Slovenia, he was not named to the Olympic roster.[59] Kopitar helped Slovenia reach the quarterfinals of the tournament by scoring two goals and one assist.[60][61]

Kopitar was also named to play in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey for Team Europe, which includes players from most of Europe (the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, and Sweden have their own teams).[62] Prior to the announcement Kopitar had expressed excitement towards the concept, which was to be introduced during the tournament, noting that as a Slovenian he had few opportunities to play in tournaments like this.[63]

Playing style[edit]

Kopitar is renown in the NHL as one of the most effective two-way forwards, in that he is effective both as an offensive and defensive player.[4] A finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is given to the best defensive forward in the NHL, in both 2014 and 2015, Kopitar won the award in 2016. He is known for being skilled at taking faceoffs, with one of the highest averages in the league during his career.[64] He is also skilled at offence, having led the Kings in team scoring every year of his career, except for his first season.[65]

Career statistics[edit]

Regular season and playoffs[edit]

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
2002–03 HK Acroni Jesenice U18 Slov-U18 14 38 38 76 10
2002–03 HK Acroni Jesenice Jr Slov-Jr 20 15 12 27 8
2002–03 HK Kranjska Gora Slov 11 4 4 8 4
2003–04 HK Acroni Jesenice Jr. Slov-Jr 25 32 28 60 16
2003–04 HK Kranjska Gora Slov 21 14 11 25 10 4 1 1 2 0
2004–05 Södertälje SK U18 Swe-U18 1 1 2 3 0 1 0 0 0 2
2004–05 Södertälje SK J20 30 28 21 49 26 2 1 1 2 0
2004–05 Södertälje SK SEL 5 0 0 0 0 10 0 0 0 0
2005–06 Södertälje SK SEL 47 8 12 20 28
2006–07 Los Angeles Kings NHL 72 20 41 61 24
2007–08 Los Angeles Kings NHL 82 32 45 77 22
2008–09 Los Angeles Kings NHL 82 27 39 66 32
2009–10 Los Angeles Kings NHL 82 34 47 81 16 6 2 3 5 2
2010–11 Los Angeles Kings NHL 75 25 48 73 20
2011–12 Los Angeles Kings NHL 82 25 51 76 20 20 8 12 20 9
2012–13 Mora IK Swe.1 31 10 24 34 14
2012–13 Los Angeles Kings NHL 47 10 32 42 16 18 3 6 9 12
2013–14 Los Angeles Kings NHL 82 29 41 70 24 26 5 21 26 14
2014–15 Los Angeles Kings NHL 79 16 48 64 10
2015–16 Los Angeles Kings NHL 81 25 49 74 16 5 2 2 4 2
NHL totals 764 243 441 684 200 75 20 44 64 39

International[edit]

Year Team Comp   GP G A Pts PIM
2003 Slovenia U18 (Div I) 5 2 1 3 0
2004 Slovenia WJC (Div I) 5 1 1 2 0
2004 Slovenia U18 (Div I) 5 6 2 8 0
2005 Slovenia WJC (Div I) 5 10 3 13 6
2005 Slovenia U18 (Div I) 5 6 5 11 14
2005 Slovenia OGQ 3 1 1 2 2
2005 Slovenia WC 6 1 0 1 2
2006 Slovenia WJC (Div I) 5 5 1 6 4
2006 Slovenia WC 6 3 6 9 2
2007 Slovenia WC (Div I) 5 1 13 14 2
2008 Slovenia WC 5 3 1 4 2
2014 Slovenia OG 5 2 1 3 4
2015 Slovenia WC 7 1 3 4 0
Junior totals 30 30 13 43 24
Senior totals 37 12 25 37 14

All-Star Games[edit]

Year Location   G A Pts
2008 Atlanta 0 0 0
2011 Carolina 2 0 2
2015 Columbus 0 0 0
All-Star Game totals 2 0 2
  • All statistics are taken from NHL.com.[61]

Awards and honours[edit]

NHL[edit]

Award Year(s)
Stanley Cup champion 2012, 2014
NHL All-Star 2008, 2011, 2015
Frank J. Selke Trophy 2016
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy 2016

Los Angeles Kings team awards[edit]

Award Year
Bill Libby Memorial Award 2008, 2010, 2011, 2014, 2016
Leading Scorer Award 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
Mark Bavis Memorial Award 2007
Most Popular Player 2007, 2011
Best Defensive Player 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015

References[edit]

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  3. ^ Nusbaum, Eric (2014-10-06). "A Humble King". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2016-06-26. 
  4. ^ a b c Robson, Dan (2015). "Finally on the Map". Sportsnet.ca. Retrieved 2016-07-21. 
  5. ^ a b Crouse, Karen (2014-02-08). "Devoted Coach and Gifted Son Lead Slovenia to Hockey Heights". NYtimes.com. Retrieved 2016-07-21. 
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  9. ^ Rosen, Jon (2014-01-08). "Loosened Reign". Kings.nhl.com. Retrieved 2016-06-26. 
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External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Lauri Tukonen
Los Angeles Kings first round draft pick
2005
Succeeded by
Jonathan Bernier
Preceded by
Dustin Brown
Los Angeles Kings captain
2016–present
Succeeded by
Incumbent