Sharks' Brad Stuart talks about development of Kings' Anze Kopitar

SAN JOSE -- Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart played in 63 games for the Kings in 2007-08, a rough campaign in which the Kings won 32 games, the final season of Marc Crawford’s tenure as coach.

But it wasn’t altogether forgettable. Staurt remembered goalie Jonathan Quick’s NHL debut, a win against Buffalo in December. He also had a first-hand view of an emerging Anze Kopitar, who was then in his second NHL season with the Kings.

“He was a really skilled player when I was there,” Stuart said after the Sharks’ morning skate on Sunday, hours before Game 2. “But I knew from his character that he was going to take the next step. Some guys you can kind of tell, they don’t  have the makeup as far as the character goes. They might have the skill  but you kind of question what they have inside to take to the next level.

“And I knew he had it because he’s a great kid. And I really liked him a lot. Still do. I knew that he was probably going to be a really special player. You can tell he was going to work hard to be the best he can be….He’s a big guy and he’s hard to knock off the puck. Those guys are hard to play against. And he’s got skill to match.”

Kopitar finished 2007-08 leading the Kings in scoring with 77 points and has never looked back. Nationally, there is the continuing theme about how he is overlooked because he plays for West Coast team.

(Not that Kopitar seemed overly bothered by that.)

It also happens to the Sharks, Stuart said.

“That goes for anybody over here,” he said. “We say the same thing about Logan (Courture). He’d probably get a lot more credit if he was playing in the East somewhere. Just the way it is.

“I don’t think anybody in here really cares about that.  If you win, that’s the ultimate accomplishment. Kopi’s done that. So what more do you want really? I don’t think he cares to much about it.”

Imagine if Courture played for the Maple Leafs?

“He’d probably be a legend,” Stuart said. “Already.”


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