2023 Kings Seasons In Review – Pheonix Copley

Starting our individual evaluations, Insiders!

We’ll kick things off in net with Pheonix Copley, who turned out to be the most consistent goaltender throughout the organization over the course of the season. Copley joined the Kings in early-December and never left, as he was recalled from the AHL and immediately stepped into the lineup and contributed. A look at one of the season’s best stories below.

Pheonix Copley
NHL Statline – 37 games played, 2089 minutes played, 24-6-3 record, 2.64 goals against average, .903 save percentage, .914 even-strength save percentage, 1 shutout
AHL Statline – 11 games played, 630 minutes played, 6-4-1 record, 2.48 goals against average, .913 save percentage, 0 shutouts
NHL Playoff Statline – 1 game played, 32 minutes played, 0-0 record, 4.26 goals-against average, .750 save percentage, .800 even-strength save percentage, 0 shutouts

Pheonix Copley proved to be exactly what the Kings needed, exactly when the Kings needed it. Copley came up to the NHL as the calendar flipped from November to December, he entered the lineup a few days later and he never looked back. Copley’s season wasn’t Vezina-level, but it was settling. Copley did exactly what was expected and needed of him, as he helped to stabilize the Kings season.

“He joined the group and played right away,” Todd McLellan said. “He got into a game, he played and won, quietly went about his work, came back and did it again and he’s got 16 or 17 wins now. He just quietly goes about his work, comes back and does it again, that’s Pheonix in a nutshell. He just shows up and works. He looks to get better, he provides a calming influence for the group and quietly goes about doing it.”

Trending Up –

The song says it all.

All Pheonix Copley did was win. He joined a team that had won 12 of its first 25 games. He won seven of his first eight games, as the season got back on course, and he never looked back. Copley’s numbers, written above, are not leading the league in terms of save percentage or goals-against average. Heading into Copley’s first NHL start of the season, the Kings ranked last in the league in team save percentage. From Copley’s first start on, the Kings improved to 19th in the NHL in save percentage. Not league-leading, but league-average. Turned out, league average was all the Kings needed, as they went 34-15-6 from Copley’s debut in Ottawa on, with a .673 winning percentage, the third-best mark in the Western Conference. Copley won 24 of those 34 games, tied for the sixth most in the NHL in that span. Good stuff.

Stylistically, Copley proved to be exactly what suited the Kings as well. Rarely would you see highlight-reel or contortionist-style work from Copley. Also, rarely would you see a really soft goal allowed. Copley was calm, composed and made the save he needed to make. He’s a bigger goaltender and one with less movement in his game. As McLellan’s quote above says, his style provided a calming influence on the Kings when they needed one. The Kings were a Top-10 team in the NHL in expected goals against per/60 before Copley’s arrival. His style helped bridge the gap between expected and actual down the stretch.

Copley was also one of just a few Kings played to earn a nomination for a league award. Copley was LA’s media-nominated player for the Masterton Trophy, given to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.” More on Copley’s well-deserved nomination HERE, showing that his performance was recognized beyond just the locker room. Truly one of the best organizational stories of the season.

Trending Down – It’s hard to find a ton to complain about when it comes to Copley, because compared to expectations, he shattered them in just about every area. You could look at a statistic like high-danger goals against as an area of concern, where Copley allowed 6.1 more than expected. His high-danger save percentage was .796, ranking 30th out of the 36 goaltenders with at least 2000 minutes played. Among those 36 goaltenders, none faced fewer high-danger chances per/60 than Copley. It’s easy to say “make more saves” without context and that would make no sense. However, a movement towards the league average in that area is one that could take his overall numbers from league average to the upper echelon.

Copley also did not start any of his team’s six games in the postseason. His regular season play probably merited one, though it would be hard to say that Joonas Korpisalo did not earn the net in the postseason. Korpisalo faced a slightly higher volume and certainly a higher volume of high-danger looks, but still posted a slightly better statline. Copley did feature in Game 5, in relief, but would have liked the net for a start. His contract extension shows the Kings have faith in him, but they still acquired another option in Korpisalo. Not sure if that’s truly a “trending down” but it’s not fully rosey either.

2023-24 Status – Copley signed a one-year extension in February, which ties him to the club for the 2023-24 season. Copley’s play merited a raise as he nearly doubled his salary from $825,000 to $1.5 million. Copley is one of three goaltenders signed for next season, along with Cal Petersen and Erik Portillo, and should open camp with the NHL club after his performance this season. In contrast to how he began this season, he’s the guy on the inside with the job, not the guy on the outside pushing for one. A well-deserved reversal of roles after a strong and impressive season.

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