Anze Kopitar has four years remaining on his contract with the Los Angeles Kings, a deal which will likely take him pretty close to retirement by the time it expires. With a rebuild underway and new talent coming in, however, what can we expect from Kopitar over the next four seasons as he ages?
For next year, I imagine not a lot changes with his role. His ice time was down slightly this season but he averaged more ice time per game in both 2017-18 and 2018-19 than in any other season of his career, surpassing 22 minutes per game in both years. Soon, other young centers will be challenging for playing time but I imagine it’s at least another season before we see any noticeable drop in Kopitar's ice time. He’s the perfect player to keep around for the rebuild, as he’ll be able to shelter younger players from tougher matchups and continue to provide leadership for the young team.
I would expect that we start to see a decline in his production in the next year or two though. To compare, here are his stats from early on in his career versus the last few seasons, broken down into goals, assists and shot attempts per 82, as well as shooting percentage:
Kopitar’s shot attempts are down and his shooting percentage is up, which usually isn’t a good combination and can sometimes mask what should be lower production. He has managed to maintain this high shooting percentage for three seasons in a row now but based on the reduction of shot attempts, I’d expect his production to be down a bit in the coming years, which is natural for someone turning 33 years old. If you adjust the stats from his last four seasons to his career shooting percentage of 12.8 per cent, these are what his numbers would look like:
Kopitar is still the best forward on the team by a wide margin, but it’s likely we see his numbers closer to 20 goals and about 60 or 65 points per season going forward. As for ice time though, he may see his role reduced in the last year or two of his deal but as for next season at least, I wouldn’t expect much to change. He remains the heart of the team and will for several more seasons to come.
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Here's today's poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
How many points do you expect from Anze Kopitar next season?