It might be considered an overdue nod in some quarters, but Kings center Anze Kopitar's defensive abilities were recognized on Thursday morning when the NHL announced he is a finalist for the Selke Trophy.
The other finalists are Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, a former winner, and the Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron, a finalist for the third straight season. Bergeron, like Toews, also won the Selke previously. Bergeron won it in 2012.
This is the first time Kopitar -- or any Kings player, for that matter -- has garnered a Selke nomination. The Selke goes "to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game."
"It's really nice to be nominated, obviously," said Kopitar, who led the Kings in plus-minus with a plus-34 rating, a career high and tied for fourth best in the NHL this season.
"But right now it’s not the time to think about that. I’ll think about that when it’s all said and done."
Said Kings defenseman Drew Doughty: "It's about time. That's all I can really say about it. He deserves to be there and I think he's [gotten] a lack of notice playing here in L.A., of course.
"The other two guys with him are tough guys to beat. They're both unbelievable players as well. I'm just really happy for Kopi. I've played with him for six years now. As much as he's a forward, I've still learned a lot from him every day."
Doughty has noticed subtle improvements in Kopitar this season.
"Maybe in the past he wasn't first PK [penalty-killing unit] for five on three or things like that, and now he is," Doughty said. "He's obviously going to be out there in the last minutes, if we're up by a goal.
"With experience and being in the league, he's just gotten better in every aspect of his game. And that's what you want as a player."