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2015-16 Season Review: Anze Kopitar

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Sure, leading the team in scoring nine straight times is great and all. What else have you done for us lately?

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Kopitar Player Card

Key Numbers

  • 5.4 Shots/60 at 5-on-5: Why, oh why, would I start with a negative? Primarily to give the appearance of a balanced review, I think. However, the only red spot on Kopitar's player card comes from his 5.4 shots per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. Ten other forwards shot the puck more frequently at evens, including zero goal scorer Jordan Nolan. The figure was a career low for Kopitar.
  • Four Overtime Game-Winners: And yet, Kopitar still returned to the 25-goal plateau, a mark he'd hit in six straight (full) seasons before last year. How? In addition to a great even strength shooting percentage and five power play goals, Kopitar was a major beneficiary of new rules. He and (appropriately) Jonathan Toews tied for the league lead in 3-on-3 overtime goals, with four. If you're scoring at home, that's 13 goals at 5v5, 5 goals at 5v4, 4 goals at 3v3, 1 goal at 4v5, 1 goal at 4v4, and 1 goal at 6v5. Talk about scoring in all situations.
  • 2.21 Points/60 at 5-on-5: If Kopitar's going to shoot less you want him to at least pick up his share of assists, and he did that with 49 assists, including 31 at 5-on-5. His 5-on-5 scoring rate was the second-best of his career, trailing only 2010-11.
  • 57.5% Corsi For (5v5): Kopitar's possession numbers were middle-of-the-road by Los Angeles Kings standards. Nick Shore was the only center with a higher CF% at even strength, but four of Kopitar's five most frequent linemates drove possession more effectively overall. In Kopitar's defense, he was saddled with more starts in his own zone than any other forward.
  • +14 Penalty Differential (5v5): Kopitar drew 20 penalties while only taking 6 at 5-on-5 play this season. That wasn't just tops on the Kings; that was tops in the NHL. That's how you win a Lady Byng!

Assessment

Anze Kopitar has now completed a decade in Los Angeles, and this is the ninth straight year he's led LA in scoring. You'd think Kopitar's contributions would be extremely predictable by now -- his point scoring certainly is -- but he has continued to evolve and excel as he approaches the big 3-0. Most difficult defensive assignments ever? Check. Unprecedented overtime domination? Being on the ice for seven game-winners is pretty good. Dealing with yet another season of being the focus of opposing defenses? His average shot distance of 24.2 feet was the lowest of his career. Despite shooting less and passing more, he produced just as he always does, despite the usual rotation of wingers.

His possession numbers relative to the rest of his team were his worst since his rookie season, but it's tough to find anywhere else you can criticize his performance.

Highlight

About time.

Lowlight

Kopitar's playoff performance was nothing to write home about, but his four points, ten shots, and above-average possession numbers were true to his regular season form. He simply was blown away by a virtuoso performance from Joe Thornton, who provides the best-case scenario for what Kopitar will be like near the end of his contract.

For a more definitive lowlight, we'll instead turn to 2015, when Kopitar seemed like the ideal choice to ease Milan Lucic into Los Angeles. Instead, Kopitar didn't have an assist in October, and they continued to struggle together, culminating in a 5-0 loss to Toronto in which they were on the ice for four goals against. Thankfully, things turned around soon after, enough for most to bemoan the loss of Lucic on Kopitar's wing.

The Future

He's now a $10 million player. Also, he's the captain now.

If Anze wasn't already expected to be the best player on the ice night in and night out, he certainly will be in 2016-17. (According to reader voting he was the best player on the ice 30 times for LA this season, which is pretty darn good when you think about it.) Entering his 29-year-old season, Kopitar's unlikely to see huge upticks in offense, so anyone hoping for a 90-point season might be disappointed next year. Otherwise, you'll probably be more than satisfied with #11, as usual.

Grade

For the new C, it's an A... with hopes for a return of the playoff magician next year.