As fans delve into their own teams’ statistics and playoff viability, it’s easy to miss the news about players in other divisions. Our “Know Your NHL All-Stars” series highlights players from each division so that fans know a little bit about those who went under the radar. We’ve covered the rookies, Central and Metropolitan divisions, as well as the Blackhawks’ top six picks. Now it’s time to introduce eight stars of the Pacific division.
Drew Doughty – L.A. Kings
After seven seasons with the Kings, winning two Stanley Cups and two Olympic championships, Doughty is ready to take on the 2015 NHL All-Star Game. So far, Doughty has four goals and 24 assists for a combined 28 points in 46 games this season.
When Steve Yzerman chose Doughty over other potential picks for the 2010 Olympics, the relatively unknown blueliner made a name for himself. Doughty is known for being a physical player, a necessity in the Western Conference, and a great quarterback on the Kings’ power play. As an offensive defenseman on a team that puts defense first, Doughty plays an important, puck moving role.
Fun Fact: Drew Doughty’s nickname in juniors was “doughnut” due to his surname’s spelling.
Doughty also believes Denzel Washington is the best choice to play him in a movie.
Ryan Getzlaf – Anaheim Ducks
Currently, Getzlaf has 14 goals and 35 assists for 49 total points across 45 games this season. The veteran center ranks seventh overall in points and fourth in assists. In 10 seasons with the Ducks, Getzlaf posted a point per game or better in six of the last seven.
Fun Fact: Ryan Getzlaf hosts the annual Getzlaf Golf Shootout benefiting CureDuchenne each September.
Ryan’s brother, Chris Getzlaf, is also a professional athlete who plays for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL.
Anze Kopitar – L.A. Kings
Like other Pacific Division NHL All-Stars, Kopitar spent his entire professional career with the same organization. Kopitar currently has 11 goals and 24 assists in 43 games this season. His shooting percentage is 14.7 on a mere 75 total shots. Seeing that the Kings play a defensive game, this is no surprise.
In 2014, Kopitar made his first Olympic appearance playing for Slovenia. Though Slovenia participated in the IIHF World Championships, this was the country’s first Olympic opportunity since it participated as part of Yugoslavia in 1988. Not only was Kopitar the only NHL player on his home country’s Olympic roster, but he’s one of five Slovenian players ever drafted into the NHL.
Fun Fact: Anze Kopitar’s dog, Gustl, has a tiny Stanley Cup-shaped bowl to match his dad’s trophy. Gustl also makes appearances at team practices.
Brent Burns – San Jose Sharks
After switching back to defense, Burns has 11 goals and 24 assists in 47 games this season. Due to his time spent as a forward, Burns plays with an offensive mindset.
In 2013-14, Burns scored a career-high 48 points as a forward, a statistic that he’s not likely to match on the blue line. The last time Burns played in the NHL All-Star Game, he represented the Wild as a defenseman, a recently acquired position. Upon his 2011 trade to San Jose, Burns moved back to forward midway through the 2011-12 season, but switched again in 2014.
Fun Fact: Brent Burns buzzed his Chewbacca-like beard and mane for charity in 2014. Through the Sharks Care foundation, the team’s participation in the “Burnzie’s Buzzcut for Charity” event raised more than $15,000.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Edmonton Oilers
There’s no question that the Edmonton Oilers are suffering this season, but Ryan Nugent Hopkins does his best to post points. In 45 games, Nugent-Hopkins is tied with Jordan Eberle as the team’s leading goal scorer with 12, and for the second most assists with 17. Nugent-Hopkins holds an 11.3 shooting percentage and scored one game winner so far this season.
While Nugent-Hopkins is a small center, he is known for his playmaking abilities and propensity to set up his linemates.
Fun Fact: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is interested in horse racing, and has his own thoroughbred, Zenya.
Radim Vrbata – Vancover Canucks
Vrbata is scoring big in his first season in Vancouver. In only 42 games, Vrbata scored 18 goals, just two short of the 20 goals in 80 games he achieved last season. While Vrbata’s assists have slowed, his shooting percentage increased from 7.6 to 12.8 in 2014-15. Overall, he’s a veteran right wing who plays with puck patience and finesse.
Fun Fact: Like many Czech players, Vrbata looked up to Jaromir Jagr as a child. Over the course of his career, Vrbata was able to play both with and against the Czech superstar.
Mark Giordano – Calgary Flames
Giordano spent most of his professional career with the Calgary Flames, with stints in the AHL and KHL. He hasn’t played a solid, full season since 2010-11, but is looking to have a career year. So far, Giordano has 11 goals and 28 assists in 46 games. Of his 11 goals, two were scored on the power play, one was scored shorthanded, and two were game winners.
Though Giordano has spent time out, playing little more than half of each of his past three seasons, he is a reliable veteran defenseman. In the 2013-14 season, half of Giordano’s 14 goals were scored on the power play. This season, he is 14th overall in blocked shots, following only Erik Johnson (9th overall) in this statistic on the All-Star roster.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Arizona Coyotes
Like other All-Stars, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is on pace for a career season. The defenseman is close to matching his goal-scoring record of 15, with 12 goals and nine assists in 46 games this season. So far, the Swede has eight power play goals and six game winners in 2014-15.
At only 23 years old, Ekman-Larsson has room to grow into his 6’2”, 190 lbs. frame. While he is light for his height, he’s known for his smooth skating and smart passes.
Fun Fact: After blocking a shot, Adam Burish and Oliver Ekman-Larsson got so tangled on the ice, that they became stuck for several seconds in a move commentators labeled the “Downward Desert Dog.”
Watch These Players in the 2015 NHL All-Star Game
The Western Conference is home to the hardest hitting teams in the league, and these eight Pacific Division All-Stars are ready to square off this weekend. As teammates are turned against each other to win the battle of the NHL’s best, knowing each player’s strengths and weaknesses is important to the game. Make sure to familiarize yourself with each player on the 2015 NHL All-Star Game roster before the puck drops this Sunday, January 25th at 5:00pm ET.