2023 Kings Seasons In Review – Anze Kopitar

Moving from the team’s youngest player to the team’s most established player, a look back at Anze Kopitar’s season in review. Rinse and repeat in many ways for Kopitar, who produced an expected, high-level statline alongside his usually solid defensive metrics. Especially in the second half of the season, Kopitar was every bit the two-way monster we’ve come to expect him to be.

Anze Kopitar
LAK Statline – 82 games played, 28 goals, 46 assists, +20 rating, 4 penalty minutes
Playoff Statline – 6 games played, 2 goals, 5 assists, -3 rating, 0 penalty minutes
Possession Metrics (Relative To Kings) – CF% – 52.3% (-0.1%), SCF% – 52.9% (-0.1%), HDCF% – 52.6% (-2.6%)

In a line stolen from the Drew Doughty article, Anze Kopitar’s role is clearly defined. He’s the team’s number-one center, he plays on both special teams units and he produces at both ends of the ice. Kopitar had another strong season on most fronts. Offensively productive and defensively responsible, Kopitar put together another season of being who he is, across all 200 feet of ice. Trusted at a high level in all situations, Kopitar’s play did the big things as well as the little things. More on his season below.

Trending Up – Death, taxes and Anze Kopitar leading the LA Kings in scoring. For the 15th time in his NHL career, Kopitar topped the scoring charts for the LA Kings. He finished with 74 points, a slight uptick from his 2021-22 production, as he posted his highest number of goals and points since the 2017-18 season, when he was nominated for the Hart Trophy. With 2.37 points/60 in 5-on-5 situations, Kopitar produced at the second-best rate of his NHL career. On the power play, his seven power-play goals were the fifth most in a season during his career, as he trended upwards in terms of high-danger chances with a role that saw him play closer to the goal than seasons past. Production, check.

As far as the all-around game, Kopitar posted the third best season in the faceoff circle of his NHL career, coming in at 55.9 percent. His best three seasons have been his last three seasons, an area in which he’s improved in the latter stages of his career. Kopitar also ranked third in the NHL in shots blocked this season amongst forwards, behind only Auston Matthews and Elias Pettersson, as he posted the best per/60 rate of his NHL career. While his season started out relatively high event, Kopitar was among the NHL’s best supressors in the second half of the season, ranking in the Top 15 around the league in high-danger chances against and goals against from January 1 on. We’ve just come to expect certain things from Kopitar’s all-around game. He generally delivered in those areas again this season.

Kopitar’s overall performance level led to consideration for two end-of-season awards, the Lady Byng and the Selke. Kopitar wound up with just the Lady Byng nomination, but will likely have received several votes for the Selke when all is said and done. A season of playing the workload that Kopitar does, when played at his highest level, will likely land him in those conversations every year. That he was here in 2022-23 is a good representation of his level of play throughout the season.

Trending Down – How much of this is on Kopitar, you be the judge, but Plan A for the Kings this season was a line of Kevin Fiala alongside Kopitar and Adrian Kempe and Plan A didn’t quite work as intended. The best version of the Kings saw Fiala drive his own line – to much success – with Kopitar and Kempe alongside Quinton Byfield. The biggest issue when together was the high volume of high-danger chances against. When together, that line gave up high-danger chances and goals against at a significantly higher rate than any of the pieces did when apart. While they created plenty of offense together, they did so at an equal or greater rate when apart with much better defensive results. Best intentions were made, but Plan A didn’t work and the Kings had to adapt.

I think it’s also worth mentioning that the Kings did look to reduce Kopitar’s milage – ever so slightly – this season. Over the last three seasons, Kopitar has seen his average time-on-ice fall by just about a minute per game, from 21:10 in the 2020-21 season to 20:18 this past season. That’s still a ton of ice time, inside the NHL’s Top-20 among all forwards, but still a small step back. The Kings also moved around Kopitar’s responsibility on the power play, utilizing Kempe and Fiala more for transportation giving Kopitar less room to go up and down. All part of a plan, as Todd McLellan shared during his exit interview, while not trying to take away from the things that make Kopitar great.

2023-24 Outlook– For the first time in a long time, Kopitar is approaching free agency. His eight-year contract expires at the end of the 2023-24 season, meaning he enters training camp with one season remaining on his contract. Kopitar is the team’s top-line center and his level of play, even at age 35, merits that standing without question.

During their respective exit interviews, Kopitar and General Manager Rob Blake both indicated an interest in extending Kopitar’s contract. Both want Kopitar to be a one-franchise player and both want to extend his stay with the organization beyond his current contract. Length and cap hit are the things to be negotiated, but that comes down to the negotiation process. All signs point to an extension to come, it’s just a matter of when. July 1 is the first day such an extension could be announced, one year out from Kopitar’s free agency date.

“For sure. I’ve said before, there’s no secret, that I want to stay here and be a one-franchise player. We’ll see how that goes.”

For now, however, Kopitar is penciled into his usual position – 1C – under contract for 2023-24 at this time.

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