Anže Kopitar (pronounced [anˈʒɛ kɔˈpiːtaɾ] ahn-ZHE ko-PEE-tahr) (born 24 August 1987), nicknamed Kopi, is a Slovenian professional ice hockey centre and alternate captain for the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League (NHL). The 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL upon making his debut in 2006. Kopitar has spent his entire career with the Kings, and has led the team in scoring for seven consecutive seasons.
Kopitar played junior hockey for his hometown team HK Acroni Jesenice before moving to Sweden at age 16 to play in a more competitive league. He spent one season with the junior teams of the Södertälje SK organization, and then with the senior team of the top-level Elitserien. He moved to North America to join the Kings in 2006, one year after he was drafted, and he finished fourth in the Calder Trophy voting his rookie year. Kopitar’s dynamic offensive talent allowed him to immediately become Los Angeles’ best offensive weapon, though in recent seasons, he has improved his defensive game and has also emerged as one of the NHL’s premier two-way forwards. Praised as one of the best players in the League, Kopitar won the Stanley Cup championship with the Kings in 2012 and 2014, leading the League in post-season points on both occasions with 20 (tied with teammate Dustin Brown) and 26 points, respectively. Internationally, Kopitar has represented the Slovenian national team in several junior and senior tournaments, as well as at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Kopitar was born in Jesenice, Slovenia (then part of Yugoslavia) to Matjaž and Mateja Kopitar. Matjaž played hockey for HK Acroni Jesenice in the Yugoslav and later Slovenian championship in the 1980s and 1990s, and competed in three World Championships (in the B and C pools; lower levels) for both Yugoslavia and Slovenia in the early 1990s. He also coached HK Acroni Jesenice of the Austrian Hockey League in the 2006–07 season and has been the head coach of the Slovenia national ice hockey team since 2010. Mateja worked at the family restaurant, Gostišče Kopitar, in Hrušica, a village about five kilometres from Jesenice.
When Kopitar was four, his father first taught him how to skate; Matjaž built an ice rink in their backyard in Hrušica, and Kopitar would go out there whenever he could. Kopitar has a brother, Gašper, who is five years younger. Gašper also plays hockey; when the Kopitar family moved to Los Angeles, Gašper joined a junior team sponsored by the Kings. He then played for the Portland Winterhawks of the major junior Western Hockey League (WHL) and the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League (USHL), before turning professional with Mora IK in Sweden. His favorite player growing up was Sergei Fedorov. Kopitar’s grandmother taught English at a local high school, and both Kopitar and his brother learned to speak English from her. Kopitar speaks five languages: Slovene, Serbian, German, Swedish, and English. He enjoys playing soccer and is a declared supporter of Slovenian football club NK Maribor. Until he moved to Sweden, Kopitar lived with his parents. While in Sweden he lived alone in an apartment. After his first season in the NHL, the rest of Kopitar’s family joined him in Los Angeles. First living in a house in Hermosa Beach, then moving to Manhattan Beach.
In 2005, while in his late teens, Kopitar met his future wife Ines Dominc at the IIHF World U18 World Championship Division I held in Maribor, Slovenia. They later married in July 2013.
On March 14, 2015, Kopitar and his wife Ines welcomed their first child, a daughter, Neža. She was born at 12:38 AM and weighed 7 lbs., 2 ounces.
In 2002, Kopitar began playing for the youth team of his hometown, HK Acroni Jesenice. He split the year between the team’s under-18 and junior club’s, and also appeared in 11 games for the senior team HK Kranjska Gora of the Slovenian Ice Hockey League. Kopitar had four goals and four assists (eight points) in the senior league, and recorded 76 points in 14 games for the Jesenice under-18 team and 27 points in 20 games for the junior club. He led the Slovenian Ice Hockey League in scoring at the age of 16, and Swedish scout Lars Söder recruited Kopitar for the Elitserien in 2004. (Söder had originally discovered Kopitar when he was 13 at a European Youth Olympic Festival.)
The Slovenian Ice Hockey League did not have a high enough skill level, so Kopitar decided that if he wanted to improve his career prospects, he would have to leave the country. He was offered a chance to play in Sweden for Södertälje SK, eventually joining their junior team where he led the League in scoring, with 49 points (28 goals, 21 assists) in 30 games. Prior to the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar was ranked the top European skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau. After his first season in Sweden, he was chosen 11th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2005 Draft. Unlike most top-ranked prospects, Kopitar was not at the draft, but in Sweden playing in preseason games. Some members of the team had a party for the draft, including Niclas Bergfors, who was selected 23rd overall by the New Jersey Devils. Prior to the NHL Draft, Kopitar was also selected in the CHL Import Draft by the Regina Pats of the WHL. He declined to move to North America, however, hoping to further his development by continuing to play against professionals in the Elitserien, rather than the major junior players in the WHL.
Los Angeles Kings
Kopitar signed an entry-level contract with the Kings on September 7, 2005, but returned to play in Sweden for another season. The following year, in 2006, he accepted an invitation to Los Angeles’ rookie camp. He then made his NHL debut on October 6, 2006, against the Anaheim Ducks and scored two goals in the game. In January 2007, he was named to the NHL YoungStars Game, an event included at the All-Star Game festivities; Kopitar recorded two goals and three assists in the Game. Kopitar completed his first NHL season third among rookies in scoring, behind Evgeni Malkin and Paul Stastny, with 20 goals and 41 assists for 61 points. It marked the fifth-highest point total by a Kings rookie, and the highest since Luc Robitaille in 1986–87. He finished fourth in voting for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year. Kopitar was awarded the Mark Bavis Memorial Award as the best first-year member of the Kings and was also named the Kings’ Most Popular Player.
The following season, 2007–08, Kopitar was selected to represent the Western Conference at the 56th NHL All-Star Game in Atlanta, his first appearance in the Game. He was the youngest player in the Game, nearly two years younger than the second-youngest player, Paul Stastny. Kopitar finished the regular season with 32 goals and 45 assists for 77 points; he led the Kings in assists and points and was second in goals. Kopitar was also named the winner of the Bill Libby Memorial Award as the most valuable player on the Kings, as well as received an award for leading the team in scoring.
On October 11, 2008, early into the 2008–09 season, Kopitar signed a seven-year contract extension with the Kings worth $47.6 million. The contract was to keep Kopitar with the team until the conclusion of the 2015–16 season. He finished the season with 66 points in 82 games, leading the Kings in both assists and points, while again finishing second in goals scored.
Kopitar scored his first career NHL hat-trick on October 22, 2009, against the Dallas Stars. He finished the 2009–10 season with a career-high 34 goals and 81 points. For the second time in his career, Kopitar won the Bill Libby Memorial Award as the Kings’ most valuable player, and led the team in scoring for the third-straight year. Kopitar also made his Stanley Cup playoff debut in 2010 as the Kings qualified for the post-season for the first time since 2002. The Kings, however, lost in the Western Conference Quarterfinals to the Vancouver Canucks, and Kopitar finished tied for third on the team with five points in six games.
On March 15, 2011, Kopitar played his 325th consecutive NHL game, which set a new record for the Kings, passing Marcel Dionne. Eleven days later, however, Kopitar’s season and ironman streak came to an abrupt end at 330 games after he suffered a broken ankle. Despite the injury setback, Kopitar led the team in scoring for the fourth-straight season, amassing a 73-point campaign prior to his injury.
In the 2011–12 season, Kopitar led the Kings in scoring with 76 points, including a career-best 51 assists. At the conclusion of the season, the Kings and Kopitar won the Stanley Cup, the first title in Kings history. Kopitar finished tied with Kings captain Dustin Brown to lead the team in playoff scoring, with each having 20 points from 20 games played. Kopitar was the first Slovenian-born player to win the Stanley Cup.
Due to the 2012–13 NHL lockout, Kopitar joined younger brother Gašper Kopitar’s team Mora IK of the Swedish second-tier league HockeyAllsvenskan, signing a contract with the team for the 2012–13 season. When the lockout ended on January 6, 2013, Kopitar returned to Kings to play in the 48-game, shortened 2012–13 NHL season.
At the end of regular 2013–14 season, Kopitar led the Kings’ offence for the seventh-consecutive season with 70 points. In the 2014 playoffs, Kopitar was yet again Los Angeles’ top scorer, scoring 26 points in 26 games. The Kings won three Game 7 deciders in their run to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they faced the New York Rangers. On June 13, 2014, Los Angeles won Game 5 of the Finals, and the series overall, with a score of 4–1 in front of a home crowd at Staples Center. This was Kopitar’s, as well as the Kings’, second Stanley Cup title in the last three seasons.
Kopitar first played in an international tournament when he participated in the Division I (second level) tournament of the 2003 IIHF World U18 Championships for the Slovenian national junior team. He appeared in five games and recorded three points. The following year he appeared in the 2004 tournament and the 2004 World Junior Championships. Slovenia appeared in the Division I level at both tournaments. Kopitar scored si goals and eight points in five games during the under-18 tournament and finished second overall for goals scored and third for points, leading Slovenia in both categores; he had one goal and one assist in five games at the World Juniors.
In 2005 Kopitar appeared in three international tournaments for Slovenia; he took part in the World Juniors, U18 Championship and the World Championship. Both junior tournaments were at the Division I level, while the senior championship was at the top level. At the 2006 World Championship he played for Slovenia at the top level and recorded three goals and nine points in six games and was tied for fifth among scoring leaders.
Slovenia qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi; the qualifying games were held during the NHL season so Kopitar was unable to participate, though his father Matjaž coached the team. Though Gašper Kopitar, Anže’s brother, was part of the team that secured qualification for Slovenia, he was left off the Olympic roster. Kopitar helped Slovenia reach the quarterfinals of the tournament by scoring two goals and one assist.
Regular season and playoffs
|2002–03||HK Acroni Jesenice U18||Slov-U18||14||38||38||76||10||—||—||—||—||—|
|2002–03||HK Acroni Jesenice Jr||Slov-Jr||20||15||12||27||8||—||—||—||—||—|
|2002–03||HK Kranjska Gora||Slov||11||4||4||8||4||—||—||—||—||—|
|2003–04||HK Acroni Jesenice Jr.||Slov-Jr||25||32||28||60||16||—||—||—||—||—|
|2003–04||HK Kranjska Gora||Slov||21||14||11||25||10||4||1||1||2||0|
|2004–05||Södertälje SK U18||Swe-U18||1||1||2||3||0||1||0||0||0||2|
|2006–07||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||72||20||41||61||24||—||—||—||—||—|
|2007–08||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||82||32||45||77||22||—||—||—||—||—|
|2008–09||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||82||27||39||66||32||—||—||—||—||—|
|2009–10||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||82||34||47||81||16||6||2||3||5||2|
|2010–11||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||75||25||48||73||20||—||—||—||—||—|
|2011–12||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||82||25||51||76||20||20||8||12||20||9|
|2012–13||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||47||10||32||42||16||18||3||6||9||12|
|2013–14||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||82||29||41||70||24||26||5||21||26||14|
|2014–15||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||79||16||48||64||10||—||—||—||—||—|
|2003||Slovenia||U18 (Div I)||5||2||1||3||0|
|2004||Slovenia||WJC (Div I)||5||1||1||2||0|
|2004||Slovenia||U18 (Div I)||5||6||2||8||0|
|2005||Slovenia||WJC (Div I)||5||10||3||13||6|
|2005||Slovenia||U18 (Div I)||5||6||5||11||14|
|2006||Slovenia||WJC (Div I)||5||5||1||6||4|
|2007||Slovenia||WC (Div I)||5||1||13||14||2|
|All-Star Game totals||2||0||2|
Awards and honours
|Stanley Cup champion||2012, 2014|
|NHL All-Star||2008, 2011, 2015|
|Frank J. Selke Trophy||2014|
Los Angeles Kings team awards
|Bill Libby Memorial Award||2008, 2010, 2011|
|Leading Scorer Award||2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014|
|Mark Bavis Memorial Award||2007|
|Most Popular Player||2007, 2011|
|Best Defensive Player||2011, 2013|