The Winnipeg Jets are stacked with talented offensive players, but few are as trusted as Andrew Copp.
Consider Monday’s 4-3 victory over the visiting Ottawa Senators. Not only did Copp lead all forwards in ice time, logging 19:12 through three periods of play, he was also the only forward to play a significant role in all three phases of the game.
The 26-year-old Michigan native finished the night with two assists, adding to a career season where he’s eclipsed personal bests in goals, assists and points. Copp now has 30 points (12G, 18A) in 39 games. That’s already two points better than his former career-high season of 28 points that he scored during the 2017-18 campaign — a feat he reached playing in all 82 games that year.
On his first assist Monday, Copp set up Adam Lowry in the second period to give Winnipeg a 2-0 edge. Less than five minutes later, he connected on the power play with Pierre-Luc Dubois, who one-timed Copp’s pass to put the home side up by a two-goal cushion, 3-1.
If that wasn’t enough, Copp also logged a team-high 4:46 on the penalty kill. The Jets PK unit went 3-for-4 on the night, including killing off three straight Sens power plays in the opening 20 minutes.
“Well, he’s absolutely earned it, right? Nothing ever given to Andrew. And he’s developed his game. Really worked hard on becoming an offensive player and he’s always had that defensive gift. So no different than those great offensive players,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said after the game.
“You have guys that have defensive acumen, right? They read the plays very well, all of the time. It’s his strength. But then he’s worked on his hands. He’s worked on making plays. Andrew can play on any line and effectively, and he transitions back and forth very well between the right defensive read, the right level of risk in his game to make a play. He’s unusual in that. There are not a lot of guys like him.”
That was high praise from the man who controls the players’ ice time. But ask Dubois about Copp, and the respect comes from a different place.
Before being acquired by the Jets in a trade midseason, Dubois would regularly play against Copp while he was the top centre for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Copp, who plays with Lowry and Mason Appleton, is an integral part of a line often tasked with shutting down the opponent’s best trio of forwards.
Dubois said that wasn’t a lot of fun.
“You win with players like that. You need every kind of player in your lineup but to have a guy like him, look at the entire line like that. You can use him offensively, defensively to go get the momentum, get the momentum back, whatever you need. Those three guys they do a really good job for our team,” Dubois said.
“When I used to play against the Jets, I saw a lot of him and he was a player I didn’t like playing against because he plays hard, he’s strong on the puck, he can make plays. So to have a player like that on your team, it really helps. Also as the season goes on, as the playoffs start, as the game gets faster and tighter, guys like that really show up.”
Copp has become accustomed this year to providing reporters with the secret behind his success in 2021. He’s often credited his work away from the rink and his determination to get better every time he touches the ice.
There’s a great confidence in Copp right now and it continues to grow. After a solid month of March, where he registered 12 points in 17 games, he has three points in two games to kick off April. With 17 games remaining in the regular season, Copp still has time to add significantly to his point totals.
“I think just executing, really. This is a player that I have been growing up, and through junior and college that I’ve wanted to be relied on to be a 200-foot (player) — PP, PK, playing in every situation. I think that was kind of what was always my goal in the NHL,” Copp said.
“So, it feels good that you’re getting rewarded for all the hard work and that you know you’re doing the right things and you’re headed in the right direction. But you never arrive. You’re always wanting to get that much better.
“There are always more opportunities in the game for you to create more and to make one more play, make one more pass, put one in the net. There’s always more and I’m just trying to have that attitude and trying to kind of continue to put the pedal down.”
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
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