KOPITAR SIGNED FOR SEVEN YEARS
|Kopitar signed a seven-year extension early Saturday morning.
“Anze is a special player, but he has also shown a strong work ethic and the type character we believe is necessary to help shape the core of our team,” said Lombardi. “Along with some of our other young core players, the commitment Kopitar has shown at a young age should continue to improve and elevate his teammates and the franchise.
“This agreement is another critical step forward in our building process, and it also demonstrates to our fans our organization’s commitment to building the right way. However, we are not done. There is still more work to do, on and off the ice.”
Said Kopitar Saturday morning from San Jose: “This is really exciting and a little overwhelming to be honest. I am happy to be apart of this organization for the next eight years. I can focus now on hockey-only and on doing what I want to do, which is to bring the Stanley Cup to L.A. I am also excited to remain with a great group of players who have gotten the same commitment from our organization. We are looking forward to growing together and to building something special here.”
The seven-year contract is the second longest in club history. Wayne Gretzky signed an eight-year contract in 1988 (after the first year the contract was extended from seven years to nine years). Kings forward Dustin Brown last year signed a six-year contract, and forwards Jarret Stoll, four years, and Patrick O’Sullivan, three years, also recently signed long-term contracts to remain with the Kings.
Kopitar, 21, is set to begin his third NHL/Kings season tonight as the Kings play their 2008-09 season opener at San Jose at 7 p.m. He was an All-Star last season and he was voted the club’s Most Valuable Player by the local media, the second youngest King to win the club’s MVP Award (20 years, 7 months, 12 days).
The 6-3, 219-pound native of Jesenice, Slovenia, last season led the Kings with a career-high 77 points and 45 assists, while finishing second on the team with a career-high 32 goals. He also last season finished tied for the club lead (with Brown) with 12 power-play goals and led the Kings with 52 takeaways. He was also just one of four Kings to play in all 82 games
Originally selected by the Kings in the first-round (11th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar made his NHL/Kings debut in 2006-07. On October 6, 2006, he scored two goals in his first game (at Anaheim) as he also became the first player from Slovenia to play in the NHL.
During his rookie season, Kopitar was selected as the Kings’ Best Newcomer and he was voted the club’s Most Popular Player to cap off a season in which he finished second on the team in assists (41) and third on the club in both goals (20) and points (61). His rookie points total represented the fifth highest total in club history and the highest total since Luc Robitaille led the Kings as a rookie with 84 points in 1986-87. He also finished first on the Kings with 555 faceoff wins and 1,204 total faceoffs, and he led the team with five shootout goals (including two game-deciding goals) and 41 takeaways.
He also played in the NHL’s YoungStars game as part of the 2007 NHL All-Star game festivities, and as a rookie, he finished third among all first-year players in assists, points, power play points, time on ice average and power play time on ice average. He also finished second league-wide among rookies in power play assists and tied for fifth in power play goals.
Kopitar has played in 154 games with the Kings and has 138 points (52-86=138) and 46 penalty minutes. Earlier this week, he was named an assistant captain by Kings Head Coach Terry Murray while Brown was named captain and defenseman Matt Greene was named an assistant captain as well.
Internationally, Kopitar has represented Slovenia at the 2008 World Championships (5 GP, 3-1=4) where he led the club in goals and points. He also represented Slovenia (the host country) at the 2007 Division I World Championships (5 GP, 1-13=14, plus-9), where he led the club in points, assists and plus-minus as the Slovenians won the tournament and a promotion into the 2008 World Championships in Canada.
He has also played at: The 2006 World Championships in Latvia (6 GP, 3-6=9); played for Slovenia (the host country) at the 2006 Division I World Junior Championships (5 GP, 5-1=6), where he led the club in goals and points; represented Slovenia at the World Championships in 2005 (6 GP, 1-0=1), at the Division I World Junior Championships in 2005 (5 GP, 10-3=13, +8), and in 2004 (5 GP, 1-1=2) as well. He also played for Slovenia at the Division I World Junior Under-18 Championships in 2005 (5 GP, 6-5=11), in 2004 (5 GP, 6-2=8) and in 2003 (5 GP, 2-1=3).