2018 NHL AWARDS: Frozen Royalty kicks off its coverage of the 2018 National Hockey League Awards with comments from Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, one of the finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy (most valuable player).
LAS VEGAS — On the eve of the 2018 National Hockey League awards, Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar arrived at the Encore Hotel in Las Vegas after a 14-hour flight from his native Slovenia on Monday.
Kopitar made it clear immediately that he’s not at all happy about how his team’s season ended.
“It’s been a long summer,” he said.
But then the focus turned to the matter at hand, the fact that he is a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s Most Valuable Player during the regular season.
“It’s great to be nominated,” he said. “I wish it wasn’t a 14-hour flight, but it’s nice. I like to be here. I like to see the guys and just chit-chat a bit. Hopefully, I didn’t come for nothing. We’ll see about that tomorrow, but it’s good to be here and make the most of it.”
Kopitar’s offensive numbers this past season were certainly eye-popping, as he set new career highs in goals (35), assists (57) and points (92), ranking him seventh in overall scoring. But it was his ability to put up those numbers while being a dominating defensive force at the same time that made him a serious Hart Trophy candidate.
Indeed, no other player came close to his 178:05 in time on ice while killing penalties and no other player among the top ten in overall scoring had more than 105:00 in time on ice while killing penalties.
Kopitar also led all NHL forwards in time on ice per game (22:05).
“I enjoyed last season, probably the most since 2014,” he observed. “Hockey was always my passion, my love. But if you’re not enjoying it to [the utmost], it gets tough and I’ve talked about that all along.”
“Last year was really good and really enjoyable, minus the quick exit [from the playoffs] or the long summer,” he added. “But you could feel everything around the group—everything was more upbeat and a little bit more positive. I think we planted the seed last year, a really good one [that] we can build on for next year.”
Kopitar indicated that getting off to a fast start was key to this success this past season.
“One of the reasons my season went so well was a good start,” he noted. “I think the good start came from having a really good summer and really feeling good about myself. Once you see a couple of pucks bounce your way and go in—I remember the first game against Philly. We won, 2-0 and I had a really, really good chance and [Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michael] Neuvirth made a really nice glove save on me. Before I hit the boards, I said to myself, ‘here we go again.’ But then, everything turned around, so you need a couple pucks or bounces to go your way and then you stop thinking about everything.”
“There’s always people around, telling you how good [your] season was,” he added. “Once it’s all said and done, you can enjoy it a lot more. I think about what went on and I’m proud of what I did last year. But I’ve said it many times. I’d give 20 points back if we could play in June.”
“[The season] was good in one way, but it was disappointing in the other way, which is the most important way.”
As the portion of the interview regarding the Hart Trophy was winding down, Kopitar was asked who he would choose to win the award.
“Who would I pick? Myself, of course,” he said, with a grin. “You know what it is? All three of us who were nominated are deserving, for sure. Heck, there are ten guys around the league who could be nominated, so to be standing right here, talking about the Hart Trophy, is humbling. It’s a big honor. At the same time, it feels very good. But it’s about the trophy that you get at the end of the season. That’s the one I want.”
“It would be nice to have [the Hart Trophy], of course,” he added. “It means that you’ve done something right just to be here and be nominated. It’s a tight race. It’s not clear. Whomever gets that trophy tomorrow, it will be well-deserved.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar. Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
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