Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar became the franchise’s all-time assists leader Sunday night, getting the 758th of his career to pass Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne in the Kings’ 4-1 win over the visiting Colorado Avalanche.
In a season full of milestones for the Kings’ captain, the 36-year-old Kopitar got his latest at the 13:26 mark of a decisive third period as he started a tic-tac-toe passing play with Adrian Kempe that led to Quinton Byfield’s second goal of the night. The crowd at Crypto.com Arena recognized the achievement with a standing ovation.
#11 becomes #1 👑
— LA Kings (@LAKings) December 4, 2023
Kopitar has played his entire 18-year career with Los Angeles and set the assist mark in his 1,313th game. Dionne, whose No. 16 is among those retired by the franchise, had 757 assists in 921 games with the club from 1975-87. Others that Kopitar passed along the way include Luc Robitaille, Dave Taylor and Wayne Gretzky — whose numbers are also hanging in the arena’s rafters.
“Obviously, it feels great,” Kopitar told reporters after the Kings improved to 14-4-3. “Like a few before, it’ll take a little time to set in. Sometimes you look at that list and the names that are on there, it makes it very surreal to just be able to be on the same page with those guys. I guess now passing them, it’s very surreal. Very humbling feeling obviously.
“This has been my home for quite a while. I’m pretty much speechless.”
Earlier this season, Kopitar caught former teammate Dustin Brown and passed him for the all-time games mark. And on Nov. 8, the Kings star and two-time Stanley Cup champion scored his 400th career goal when he put the puck into an empty net to finish off L.A.’s 4-1 win at Vegas.
“I don’t even know what to say anymore because I say the same thing over and over again,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “He means a lot to this team. He’s meant a lot to the 18 other teams he’s played on here. Champion. Hall of Famer, in my opinion. I’m sure in everybody’s opinion. And we’re so lucky to have him because he’s such a good teaching tool for everybody. You watch him do it right over and over and over again and you can’t help yourself but try and emulate it.
“We’re real fortunate to have that and hope that there’s more records to come.”
While he’s long been a player committed to playing a clean, disciplined game at both ends of the ice with his two Selke trophies as the NHL’s top defensive forward and two Lady Byng trophies for gentlemanly play, Kopitar remains a highly effective offensive player and point producer. He has 10 goals and 10 assists in 21 games for Los Angeles this season.
Consistency has been his definitive trait as he’s scored 60 points or more in 14 different seasons. Two of the three years he didn’t were in seasons when the NHL didn’t play 82 games. McLellan joked that “he’s got probably 10 pucks at home in the last three weeks.” It was fitting that the play to set the mark came with his linemates Kempe and Byfield, as they’ve been a force for the Kings ever since Byfield was put on the line midway through last season. Byfield is enjoying a breakout season with six goals and 18 points.
“It was a nice play,” Kopitar said. “That’s going to stay with me forever. That was a special play to do it, with ‘Q’ and Juice (Kempe). We’ve had some good games lately and couldn’t get rewarded on anything. Got a lot of chances. I guess it’s nice to get it out of the way and move on.”
The Kings signed Kopitar to a two-year, $14-million contract extension in the offseason. With him being contracted to the club for this season and the next two, it’s possible that he could take a run at Dionne’s team record of 1,307 points. Kopitar now has 1,161.
“He’s such a great leader,” Kings defenseman Jordan Spence said on Bally Sports. “He’s a great captain on and off the ice. Obviously seeing him accomplish a lot of things this year really, it’s pretty cool. For me personally, I want to take everything in playing with him. Being the leader in all-time assists, that’s really cool.”
(Photo: Gary A. Vasquez / USA Today)