Player evaluation: Kopitar
This season: 82 games, 34 goals, 47 assists, 16 penalty minutes, 21:47 average ice time.
The good: Kopitar finished with team- and career-highs in goals, assists and points and, for a six-week stretch early in the season, was among the NHL’s top scorers (he finished 17th in points). Kopitar has immense physical ability, great vision and creative playmaking skills, and when he puts it all together, he has the potential to be one of the league’s dominant centers. The Kings now have a long-term answer for their first-line center spot, and Kopitar’s leadership skills seem to be increasing every year.
The bad: It would seem that only two things, which pop up from time to time, are preventing Kopitar from reaching elite status: confidence and conditioning. Kopitar had 14 goals in his first 18 games this season, but after Ryan Smyth got hurt, Kopitar went nine games without a goal. More of a killer-instinct attitude, coupled with a continued emphasis on improving his conditioning, could allow Kopitar to take another step forward next season.
Going forward: Is it unreasonable to expect a 100-point season from Kopitar? Only four NHL players reached that plateau this season, but if Kopitar hadn’t had a dip in point production in the middle of the season, he would have put himself in that conversation this season. Regardless of specific point totals, everyone (Kopitar included) seems to believe that there’s another level Kopitar can reach in his game, and there’s no reason to think he can’t reach it.