2018 NHL AWARDS: Frozen Royalty wraps up its coverage of the 2018 NHL Awards with comments from Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar, who won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward.
LAS VEGAS — Although he was a distant third in the voting for the Hart Memorial Trophy as the National Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player for the 2017-18 season, Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar outclassed the competition for the Frank J. Selke Trophy.
The Selke Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL’s best defensive forward, which Kopitar has now won twice, the first coming in the 2015-16 season.
Kopitar received 70 first place votes for the Selke, while Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier split the remaining first place votes with Boston’s near-perennial Selke winner Patrice Bergeron with 37 and 34 first place votes, respectively.
“I thanked [Bergeron] afterwards for letting [someone else] win once in a while,” Kopitar joked. “It was great.”
Since former Kings head coach Terry Murray began to teach him about playing on the defensive side of the puck early in his career, Kopitar has become a dominant defensive force up front for the Kings.
“I’ve always prided myself on being a complete player,” he said. “Being good on the defensive side of things is definitely a big part of being a 200-foot player, so being recognized as a good defensive forward is a great honor.”
While he outdistanced the competition for the Selke Trophy, Kopitar was a very distant third in the voting for the Hart Trophy, garnering just eleven first place votes compared to 72 for winner Taylor Hall and 60 for Calgary’s Nathan MacKinnon.
Nevertheless, Kopitar did not seem fazed by the balloting.
“I’m definitely not disappointed,” he stressed. “Just to be here and to be nominated—it’s a great honor. It would’ve been really good to get it, of course. But Taylor had a hell of a season. So did Nate. It really was anybody’s [award] and Taylor deservingly got it. Congrats to him.”
More important for Kopitar was that some of the Humboldt Broncos (the victims of a horrific bus crash just outside Tisdale, Saskatchewan, Canada last April that killed 16 people) players who were honored on stage at the awards show, just before the presentation of the Hart Trophy.
“I actually think Taylor said it really well after he got his award,” he observed. “I was sitting in the [audience] and I was nervous. ‘If I get it, what am I going to say?’ You see those guys up there and no disrespect to the Hart [Trophy] or anything, but I’m sure everybody would give up that trophy just to have a normal life.”
“I was choked up,” he added. “I was close to crying and it just magnifies now, being a Dad myself. That’s the first thought that goes through your mind. What would’ve happened if I was in that situation? Then there’s [the shooting in Las Vegas], the shooting in Parkland, [Florida], In my opinion, if you’re not in that position there’s no way you can even imagine how that feels. I can’t talk about that, but it certainly puts things in perspective.”
On a lighter note, Kopitar was quite the center of attention at the NHL Awards and not just because he had been nominated for two of the most prestigious awards. Instead, it was for his new hair style (see photo).
“I went to the gifting suite our friends [The Fourth Period] set up and they had a barber in there,” he noted. “He said that I probably needed a little bit of a touch-up. But ‘touch-up,’ I meant a maybe just a little bit of a trim, or something. But he grabbed my hair and cut it in half.”
“I was sweating in the chair because I didn’t know what was going to come out of it,” he added. “But apparently, it turned out really well because there’s been nothing but compliments. Nobody has really made fun of me, yet. We’ll see if that sticks.”
But most important…what did his wife think?
“Mrs. [Kopitar] approved,” he said, chuckling. “It was hard work, but I guess I can do it.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar. Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
Stick tap to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen for his contributions to this story.
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