Kopitar Is Latest Willsie Protege

Times Staff Writer

Kings forward Brian Willsie had a request for his new roommate, Anze Kopitar.

“I told him the last guy I roomed with scored 52 goals,” Willsie said, smiling.

A year ago, Willsie had a front-row seat at Alexander Ovechkin’s coming-out party with the Washington Capitals. Willsie roomed with Ovechkin on the road, watching him deal with his NHL baptism.

Willsie handled the room-service lessons, and Ovechkin schooled the league, finishing with 52 goals, 106 points and the Calder Trophy, given to the NHL’s rookie of the year.


Now, Willsie has another child prodigy. Besides having experience with high-end first-round draft picks, Willsie also played in Slovenia during the lockout two seasons ago.

So who better to room with the Slovenian-born Kopitar?

“Yeah, Brian gets all the kids,” center Derek Armstrong said. “I think he sits in the room and watches cartoons with them.”

It must work. Kopitar scored two goals in the season opener and had three assists in the Kings’ second game.

Although Willsie is not ready to anoint Kopitar another Ovechkin, he has been impressed with the 19-year-old center.

“There are similarities,” he said. “Both are skilled young players. Alex got a goal in his first game, but didn’t get them in bunches right away. Anze is younger, but he speaks English well already. Alex didn’t.”

The Kings’ interest in Willsie was for his skills beyond baby-sitting. He signed as a free agent this summer, the answer to the Kings’ search for a solid two-way player who could provide a little offense. Willsie, 28, scored 19 goals last season.

“He’s a good guy to talk to about stuff,” Kopitar said. “He takes care of things.”


“He told me I had to score 50 goals,” Kopitar said.


Kings center Alyn McCauley will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his knee today and will miss at least two weeks. McCauley had surgery on the knee after last season, and was limited to non-contact drills and skating during training camp. Coach Marc Crawford said an MRI exam Sunday revealed that McCauley had a small piece of cartilage floating in the knee.


The Kings are close to signing goaltender Jonathan Bernier, one of their two first-round picks in June, to a three-year entry-level contract, worth $850,000 a season, a source familiar with the negotiations said.