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Top LA Kings Are 30, Flirty & Thriving

Mar 25, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Los Angeles Kings goalie Cam Talbot (39) and forward Anze Kopitar (11) and forward Phillip Danault (24) celebrate their victory against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. Kings won 3 -2. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Seasoned Kings players defy aging stereotypes, leading with skill and experience on and off the ice.

With graying hair and slight hints of wrinkles around their eyes and smiles, a few LA Kings players are beginning to show their age off the ice. On the ice, there’s little sign that their 30+ year old bodies have been through the ringer throughout their careers.

At 36 years old, Anze Kopitar is still highly productive in all areas of the ice. He may not be a corsi god (that honor belongs to Arthur Kaliyev) but he excels perfectly at utilizing his large frame to block out defenders, score both pretty and ugly goals, is a key component of the power play and an even more critical member of the penalty kill. With an average of 1:51 shorthanded time on ice, he and fellow old Phillip Danault are always the first two forwards over the boards to defend 4v5.

At 31 years old, Danault is everything the Kings hoped for when they signed him to what seemed like a fairly lucrative $33,000,0001 contract at the time (now it almost seems like a heavenly deal). The Quebec native is second on the team at CF% at 5v5; kills penalties without taking many himself (he has nine in 73 games played this season); and quarterbacks the second power play unit. Danault doesn’t garner as nearly as much attention as Kopitar or any of the other more notable players, but he remains an essential part of the Kings and their hopes for victory.

The first blueliner leaned on in all situations is Drew Doughty. Having grown up in the organization, the now 34-year-old has matured quite a bit over the years and really has earned his letter associated with leadership. Doughty routinely plays nearly 26 minutes a night (top in the NHL), has (mostly) stopped taking bad penalties, and is one goal away from tying a career high (he’s 12 points away from tying his career best).

Newcomer Cam Talbot is having a great year. He’s been a steady presence in net, playing with a calm, quiet, often seemingly unflappable style, a reassuring sight when the team in front of him gives up 162 scoring chances in a single period. The 36-year-old Caledonia (Canada, not Scotland) native did have a dip in play prior to the All Star break, but has looked better since returning from break in February. In 18 contests, he has one shutout, a .913 save percentage, and only three games with a sv% below .900 (league average for all goaltenders who have started at least 30 games is .904).

The Kings’ core leadership group may be considered “old”, but interestingly, their average age of 28.303 years aligns closely with the league mean of approximately 28.43 years across all 32 teams. There’s an amusing tweet that has become meme-ified over the last few years as sports fans re-share the sentiment expressed in it.

Statistician and author Rob Vollman (also the Director of Analytics with the Kings in 2022-23) penned in his book Stat Shot: The Ultimate Guide to Hockey Analytics, “Most players hit their peak age by age 24 or 25 then decline gradually until age 30, at which point their performance can begin to tumble more noticeably with the risk of absolute collapse by age 34 or 35.” Vollman examined offense data across the NHL and saw a trend among players and their ages. Josh and Luke Younggren (otherwise known as the EvolvingWild twins) took an intricate look into this theory and suggested that it may be slightly off. In the 2017 article, they studied a new data model that utilized more of a baseball Wins Above Replacement style to create statistics. Interestingly, their results were a little all over the place, highlighting the complexity of evaluating player performance solely through statistical models. While data analysis offers valuable insights, the game on the ice often tells a whole different story, one where intangible qualities like leadership, experience, and sheer determination play a pivotal role.

As the Kings continue their Quest for the Cup, the seasoned veterans within their ranks defy the conventional wisdom of aging in professional sports. Along with their gray hairs, they bring a wealth of experience garnered only through time. As the NHL landscape evolves and new stars emerge, these seasoned warriors remain steadfast pillars of leadership and skill, guiding the Kings with wisdom and determination. In a sport where youth often reigns supreme, their continued dominance stands as a testament to the timeless power of passion, perseverance, and the enduring spirit of competition.

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