Consider this a mea culpa from me to Tomas Kopecky, who I have regularly blasted.
Entering Sunday’s game, Tomas Kopecky has 20 points (five goals, 15 assists). The 15 assists are already a career high, and he established his career high in points (21) last year. Kopecky’s on pace to get close to 50 points this year.
What’s more shocking is the list of players that have fewer points than Kopecky:
- Phil Kessel (19)
- Mikael Samuelsson (19)
- Patrice Bergeron (19)
- Ilya Kovalchuk (18)
- John Tavares (16)
- Travis Zajac (16)
- Patric Hornqvist (15)
In a season where established stars are struggling to score and teams are losing top-tier players to injuries, Kopecky stands out as one of the role players that’s picking up the slack for his team.
After struggling through a stretch where he contributed only two assists in 17 games, Kopecky has caught fire. He has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in the last nine games, when the Blackhawks have been most desperate for secondary scoring. While Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane have been missing, it’s been Kopecky, Bryan Bickell and Jake Dowell that have picked up the slack.
Perhaps the key to Kopecky’s scoring increase has been coach Joel Quenneville using him in a more realistic role.
Early in the season, Kopecky was spending time on one of the Hawks’ top two lines opposite Hossa. The knock became that Kopecky could only score if Hossa was on the ice with him, and he certainly backed up that belief during his cold stretch. But since Hossa went down with his latest injury, Kopecky has been more comfortable in the offense and has shown a knack for being around the net.
His hands are still suspect, and his release continues to leave a lot to be desired, and there is an occasional defensive lapse. But through almost half the season, Kopecky’s production can no longer be ignored.