Sharks’ Couture: Kings’ Kopitar most underrated

Logan Couture, right, says Anze Kopitar, left, is the most underrated NHL centre. (Chris Carlson/AP)

Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks is considered one of the best two-way players in the NHL and had some very complimentary things to say about a number of his peers.

In an op-ed Couture did for The Players’ Tribune called “Elite Centres 101” he said he feels Los Angeles Kings assistant captain Anze Kopitar is the most underrated centre in the NHL.

“We see him all the time, unfortunately. Because he combines size, strength and intelligence, he’s as difficult to play against as any player in the league. When we’re up against the Kings, I try and play like him. He’s very responsible defensively and checks very well, especially with his stick. He’s one of the best in the league at anticipating where the puck is going and jumping in to cut off cycles,” Couture wrote.

“Offensively, his strength presents a problem. If he gets speed coming through the neutral zone, he’s tough to contain. I try to push him to the outside as much as possible. More than anything you have to take away his space. You can’t let him get his eyes up. If you give him a second on the puck to look up, he’s going to find someone in a dangerous spot.”

Couture isn’t alone when it comes to how he feels about Kopitar, as many felt the Slovenian deserved to win the Frank J. Selke Trophy last season. He was beaten out by Boston Bruins two-way stud Patrice Bergeron for the award. In November, on Hockey Night in Canada, Wayne Gretzky said he feels Kopitar is the best centre in the game behind only Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews.

It wasn’t just Kopitar that Couture was singing the praises of. Here’s what he had to say about five other elite NHL centres.

On Sidney Crosby:

It’s not just about his speed, but how he can use his lower body to protect the puck in the corner. When he takes the puck through the neutral zone, he’s a nightmare to defend because he seems to explode and take it to another gear as soon as the puck touches his stick.

On Jonathan Toews:

There’s nothing he isn’t good at. He scores dirty goals. He scores pretty goals. He checks well. Obviously Toews passes the puck at an elite level, and it’s not just about his ability to put the puck on people’s tape. It’s also that his spacial awareness is so high. He puts himself in the right spot to pass because he sees plays develop before anyone else does.

On Pavel Datsyuk:

Pavel is my favourite player in the NHL to watch. In my early years, we played against those guys a lot in the playoffs. I was on the ice against him for a lot of those series and it was a challenge. He made me a much better player. He does everything so well. He takes a lot of pride in his defensive game. Pavel is the best in the game at stripping players from behind with the stick lift…Offensively, he does incredible things with the puck. He’s made me look pretty silly before.

On Ryan Getzlaf:

Let’s start with the obvious—he’s a huge man. He checks with the best of them. But less obvious is that his reach makes him really very tough to defend because he has the ability to shoot the puck with a ton of power from out wide, which changes the angle and makes it extremely difficult for the goalie to pick up the puck.

On Henrik Sedin:

This one almost isn’t fair because of his twin brother. Those guys seem to have some kind of psychic mind-control thing where they know where each other are at all times. They both use their backhands to pass better than anyone in the world…It’s tough to close down on them in the defensive zone, because as soon as you go chasing them and lift up your stick for one second, they’re going to find a hole to pass to one another.

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