Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter doesn't do hyperbole.
Which is why his comments Monday about Kings center Anze Kopitar were particularly insightful. The topic of the morning was the NHL's Selke Award, given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.
First, before his words about Kopitar, keep in mind that Sutter coached in Chicago, San Jose and Calgary before coming to the Kings last season.
"The best all-around centerman that I've coached," Sutter said of Kopitar. Period. Faceoffs. Last-minute. First-minute. Penalty-killer. Plays against everybody's top player, whether it's defenseman, center, checking role or offensive role.
"He plays 20-plus minutes. Doesn't take penalties. It's the whole deal. Can play it whatever way you want. You want to come and get me, come and get me. ... You can play any way you want. And you know what? The best thing about Kopitar is he's getting better. When they do the comparisons with guys that are like that, there's only a handful of them."
Sutter said there has been a big change in Kopitar being able to maintain such a high level of consistency.
"The biggest adjustment he's made is, since I've been here, is playing that way all the time," Sutter said. "And I think the playoffs last year really (helped) him into seeing the ability to stay with it instead of getting frustrated with anything that's got to do with numbers.
"He's a special player."
Kopitar missed the first game of this season because of an injured knee, putting him a bit behind for about the first two weeks. Since then, his game has trended upward. He has a team-leading 25 points and is a plus-10, best of the Kings' centers.
"It took him like four or five games," Sutter said. "You could just see it; you could see where his game is going. He's a high-plus guy, and that one ain't gonna lie when you play as much as that."
Another improvement has come in terms of puck possession.
"It's not much anything to do with initiating," Sutter said. "When there's loose pucks, it used to be where he would see what was going to happen out of it. Now he goes and gets it, and then he protects it, which is the biggest part of it, possession. He's a hard guy to take the puck away from because he's so skilled and has good size."
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