LA's Anze Kopitar vs. Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk
These two high end Centers are on different sides of their careers but still offer solid value heading into next year's fantasy hockey season. Anze Kopitar just missed out on my top ten list of fantasy forwards entering next season, that may change prior to draft time next season.
Kopitar, at age 24, has just finished his 5th season in the NHL this past year. As a 19 year old rookie (a la Bryce Harper) he netted 20 goals and 41 assists. Since then, he has not had a season with under 25 goals and 39 assists. Kopitar is the real deal and should be a top 20 draft pick in next year fantasy drafts. Anze accounted for 25 goals and 51 assists in 2012, but I'd actually consider it a down, or unlucky, season. He shot 10.9% this past year compared to his 12.1% career rate. In December Anze went ice cold (see what I did there) as he only shot 2.4% with one goal scored. He did manage 10 assists but the lack scoring really held him down from having an elite season. He had to play with different line mates throughout the season until the Kings got some stability in March. In the month of March, Kopitar had 18 points in 15 games. I'm high on Kopitar next season although I am weary of his teammates offensive credibility (the Kings had the 29th worse goals scored average last year with 2.3 per game).
Pavel Datsyuk, 33 years old, just finished his 10th season in the NHL. Pavel had 19 goals and 48 assists last season with a +21 rating. Datsyuk shot a career low 11.6% this past year and had the least amount of goals scored since his sophomore season in 2003. There has been talk of the Red Wings targeting a free agent blue line partner. This would relieve some of the defensive pressure Datsyuk had on him last season. If Datsyuk has a new partner, I would expect him have in increase in his offensive production. I'd still consider Pavel to be more of a reliable defenseman with little or no upside. What you see, is what you get with him. I don't see him having over 75 points next season, free agent signing or not. Datsyuk isn't a bad player to have on your roster but temper your expectations as he is no longer the 97 point scorer he was in 2008 and 2009.
If I had to choose between these two players, the clear choice is Kopitar. Anze has tremendous upside and a very high floor for a 24 year old. Look for Kopitar to be a steal in your fantasy drafts if he falls past the top 20 spots. I'm all in on Kopitar in 2013.
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