Thursday, July 23, 2015

Anze Kopitar Jersey Card

Let's be honest - if I ever want to get through featuring all of my Anze Kopitar jersey cards, I have to get started.

Whether you look at it from his draft year or at present time, Kopitar is a hockey phenomenon. He was arguably the second-best center chosen in the 2005 draft (behind Sidney Crosby, though I might build a team around him more than Crosby myself), a strong draft that also included Bobby Ryan (2nd), Jack Johnson (3rd), Carey Price (5th), Marc Staal (12th), Jakub Kindl (19th), Tuukka Rask (21st), T.J. Oshie (24th), James Neal (33rd), Marc-Édouard Vlasic (35th), Paul Stastny (44th), Kris Letang (62nd), Jonathan Quick (72nd), Keith Yandle (105th), Vladimir Sobotka (106th), and Patric Hornqvist (230th).

But he's also a 6'3'', 225-pound center who plays with speed, scores at the same pace as Jonathan Toews in the postseason, has two Stanley Cups while leading the league in playoff scoring both times, and consistently is a top-5 vote-getter for the Lady Byng and Frank J. Selke trophies, as well as a usual suspect when it comes to the Hart.

Some fear this past year might be an indication that he's slowing down, but I think it was just the entire Los Angeles Kings team that collectively had a sub-par season to live through to realize they need to turn the machine on before March comes along and not just put the effort in come playoff time.

He's entering his final contract year on a deal that paid him just under $7M per season over seven years, and it's widely expected his next one will be huge; some are anticipating a contract similar to that of Toews and Patrick Kane with the Chicago Blackhawks ($84M over eight years, each), while others speculate that he and Steven Stamkos will be the first $12M men in hockey.

For some reason, Kopitar seems like more of a team player to me; he's seen the Hawks team get decimated by the salary cap for the second time in three Cup wins, and probably prefers to leave the Kings with more leeway to keep their better players and contend for a few more championships. Particularly with the rise of the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars (should they ever improve their goaltending on the consistency front) in the West. I think he could ''settle'' for a deal within the $9-9.5M range with a full no-movement clause and a job for his brother in the Kings organization.

He would be my choice to captain Team World (what an awful idea) at the upcoming 2016 World Cup, and will probably play in his fourth All-Star Game this year.

Here he is rocking the Kings' former/possibly future black and purple (home) uniform with matching game-worn purple jersey swatch, from Upper Deck's 2010-11 Series 1 set (card #GJ-KA of the UD Game Jersey sub-set):
He's also sporting the alternate captain's "A" in the picture. Chances are, he'll be the Kings' next captain.

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