This was supposed to be the year Jaret Anderson-Dolan broke into the NHL as a regular player. It may not end up that way, and it’s not the end of the world.
Just 21 years old and with a single year of pro hockey under his belt, a whole wide world is still in front of the Calgary, Alberta native. Considered one of the Kings top 10 prospects at this time last year, much has changed in the twelve months following. Yet, staunch supports of JAD are encouraged to breathe. He’s going to be just fine.
Adjusting to life after junior hockey can be a challenge for some players. Not for JAD, though. He caught the early eye of Kings staff at Development Camp a few weeks after being selected in the second round (41st overall) at the 2017 NHL Draft. He eventually became a favorite of former Ontario Reign coach Mike Stothers and JAD was even invited to live in Anze Kopitar’s guest house a few summers ago.
While much of the hype surrounding Kings prospects of late has centered on Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte, the reality is any progression of those two players will ultimately have little to no consequence on what ultimately happens with JAD’s career.
Originally penciled-in as the Kings fourth line center to start the 2021 campaign, it’s two trades that are currently impacting his situation. First, the acquisition of center Lias Andersson in October created a new wrinkle. In the speedy Swede, LA added not only a former high first round draft pick from the New York Rangers, they also added a player that will need a lot of playing time at the NHL level this season. Between now and the Seattle Expansion Draft in July, the Kings will need to decide if they want to protect Andersson. GM Rob Blake doesn’t need to see JAD play this season for the same purposes, he’s exempt from the Expansion Draft. Thus, getting JAD NHL games this season isn’t as critical.
The second move that may temporarily slow down’s JAD’s accession to the NHL is the more recent acquisition of Andreas Athanasiou. Again, not necessarily because they’re fighting for the same spot in the lineup. However, they are fighting for one of the 14 forwards to make the NHL roster. Here is where the nuance of ‘lineup’ and ‘roster’ becomes critical. Athanasiou is among the group of players who must either be on the NHL roster or be placed on waivers to sent to the AHL or the Kings taxi squad. JAD, meanwhile, is still free to travel between the NHL, AHL, and taxi squad without being exposed to waivers. Again, this helps but the Kings some time with JAD, while looking at another player in NHL games.
Blake and company prefer to allow their prospects plenty of time in the AHL, rather than rushing them to the NHL as some teams do with their youngsters. JAD will be just fine this season. We expect to see him get some NHL games with the Kings, even if he doesn’t start the year with the big club.
On Saturday, during the annual Black/White scrimmage game, JAD a goal – which certainly never hurts when all the brass is watching from the stands.
Following the game here’s what coach Todd McLellan had to say when we asked about JAD:
“JAD had a good night. He’s a very responsible player. I think he’s giving himself a little bit more permission now to take the odd chance and create offensively. I saw more offense out of him today, which was fine. And it wasn’t at the cost of defending. He’s a really solid checker, he’s responsible when he’s on the ice, so he’s becoming more of a well-rounded player and we’re happy about that.”
Anderson-Dolan also was made available to media following the game, here’s what he had to say:
JAD on the lack of fans inside Staples Center during the game
Obviously it’s a little different. Usually, you’re feeding off the energy from the crowd, but you have to be able to adapt in a year like this, everyone knows that. Today was kind of the first time I’ve played in an arena like this, with nobody in it, so that was a little bit different. I think it’s the same for everybody once you’re out there and you’re playing the game, you’re not really thinking about who’s in the stands and the noise that comes with it. You’re just playing your game and playing hockey. Little bit different, but I think it’ll be a pretty smooth adjustment for everyone.
On how his game has evolved since making his NHL debut two years ago
I think just a lot better details, better overall game. Got a lot of experience last year in every situation with Ontario – killing penalties, taking big faceoffs, playing powerplay. I think you just mature as a player and a person. Obviously, two years, that’s quite a big difference. Quite a bit stronger, more explosive, just everything that comes with growing into a man a little bit more, and also playing against older guys. Obviously, when you come in as a 19-year-old or 20-year-old in the AHL, there’s a little bit of a learning curve. Just stronger, and I think a little bit smarter as well.
On playing center vs. wing, which one he prefers and which one is easier to adapt to
I’ve played center pretty much my whole life. But I also played the wing in different tournaments and different situations. Like you said, I’m able to adapt to a little bit of both. I’ve played center, so I’m a little bit more comfortable there. Any position that’ll get me a chance with the Kings or with any team is, I’m willing to adjust to that. I think that just comes with having an open mind and watching the older guys in practice that are playing wing. Even during the game today, when you’re on the bench, just kind of watching guys and seeing what you’re doing. Like I said before, just being adaptable gives you a lot more opportunities. That’s something that I’d like to think I am capable of, being able to play in a couple of different roles and a couple of different positions. I’ve definitely played a lot more center than wing, but I’m also learning the position of wing as we go here, trying to get better every day at that, as well.
On if the coaching staff has suggested he’ll have a better opportunity at wing or center
They’ve been rotating the lines a little bit. I’m slotted in on the wing so it honestly doesn’t really matter to me too much. Like I said before, anywhere that I can get a chance to play and make a difference and help the team win, I’m willing to play.
On if he’s been able to accomplish and achieve the things he wanted to coming into camp
I think so. I think it’s been going well. Getting your rhythm back after having a long way off of playing no hockey. I think for everyone, it’s just kind of getting our timing back and getting your game legs back. I was able to come down here quite a bit before camp and begin training with the guys, so I’m feeling good. It’s great to be around the guys again. It was a long, long offseason, so I think everybody, including myself, is ready to get back at it and play some real games here.
On if it’s more difficult for players on the fence to make an impression without having exhibition games this year
I don’t think so. I think it’s using every opportunity you get, whether that’s in practice, or watching extra video, or in the scrimmage today. It’s about taking advantage of your opportunities. We don’t make excuses here. There’s probably a little bit less opportunity than there would be in a normal year, but hey, that’s 2020 and 2021. It’s going to be unpredictable, you take what you can get and not using that as an excuse at all, just grateful to have any opportunity. I think that’s the big thing; just taking advantage of every day, practices, games, whatever it is, just showing your best every day.
On the importance of using the scrimmage to showcase his skills to the coaching staff in a game-type scenario
It’s huge. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for game situations here at this camp, obviously with no exhibition games. Today is kind of the closest thing we’ve had to an actual game, without it being a controlled scrimmage like we had at the beginning of camp. So opportunities like that are huge for a guy like myself. You just try to take advantage of that and show your best. I was pretty happy with my game today. Like I said, it’s a weird year, so opportunities like this, you just take advantage of them.
On the uncertainty surrounding this season, and the importance of him bringing some versatility to the lineup
It’s huge. In a season like this, it’s going to be kind of a ‘next person up’ mentality. A lot of different things can happen with all the unpredictability going on. Being slotted in, wherever you are, it’s being able to play that position or play that role. Being adaptable definitely makes that a little bit easier. I’m just working on every part of my game so that when that time comes, I’m ready to take advantage of it.
On likely ending up in the AHL or taxi squad to start the season, and how he can turn that into a positive
The roster isn’t set yet, so I’m not really thinking about that. I’m treating it like I’m going to be there opening night.
On if he’s had much of a chance to connect with new Ontario Reign coach John Wroblewski
Nothing really one-on-one too much, just kind of when we’ve been together it’s normal talk. Just talking about family, kind of getting to know each other outside of hockey and building that relationship. He seems like a great guy. On the ice, he runs a great practice. He’s enthusiastic, he’s intense. I’ve heard great things about him and I’m looking forward to continuing to build that relationship.
On if there has been any player he’s really noticed looks different from putting in extra work during the offseason
That’s tough… Not really one guy comes to mind. I think everyone was expected to be in much better shape than they were coming into a normal camp, just with how much time we’ve had off. I think everybody has taken strides in that sense. It definitely feels like that on the ice, even the first few days of practice – it wasn’t really easing back into things, it was full speed ahead right from day one. That’s how it should be, props to all the guys for working hard and taking advantage of the offseason to be able to do that.
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