You just never know when two hockey players will fit well together on a line.
“Sometimes you just click with a guy – even when it’s just one game, you can feel it,” Jaret Anderson-Dolan said, when asked about playing with fellow LA Kings prospect Mikey Eyssimont in Game 1 of the 2018 Rookie Tournament. “Any time you play with new guys, communication is a big part of it. There are some guys, when you play a 72-game season together, you have natural chemistry and you know where guys are. But, tonight was our first game. I’ve never played with him before. We had two practices yesterday and that’s it. So, I definitely think the communication is a huge part of it; letting each other know where we are and what we want, talking lots on the bench, and trying to come up with little plays off the draws and stuff like that. It was definitely positive today.”
His line, rounded out on the right side by camp invitee Mark Rassell, combined for all three of the Kings goals in an 8-3 loss to the Ducks. Anderson-Dolan led the way with two goals and an assist.
“We were all working. We were all relentless on pucks. That was the biggest thing,” he added. “We’re all good players, all smart players. I think when you have three guys like that who can think the game, and you put them together, it usually ends up with good results.”
While the trio was officially listed as the third line, they seemed to get the bulk of LA’s ice time – especially in the third period, with the Kings trailing heavily.
We also caught up with Eyssimont after the game to talk about his chemistry vs. communication with Anderson-Dolan.
“The first time we skated together was at Development Camp [in July], which is pretty informal,” he began. “Here at Rookie Camp, we talked before the game — and we talked during the game — about some of the words we wanted to say on the ice. He’s a center, so he has to communicate with me; whether he says ‘chip’ or ‘eat it’ along the wall, he’s really good at that. He’s also responsible in the defensive zone, which helps me be a better player in the D-zone. That’s one of my goals to show off [that side of my game] here at this camp.”
In late March, Eyssimont signed a pro contract with the Kings after three impressive years at St. Cloud State. As he begins that transition to the AHL this season, where he’s expected to be a key contributor for the Ontario Reign, continuing his physical maturity will be among a myriad of tasks on his agenda.
“I had a good summer,” he shared. “I think this was one of my best summers I’ve ever had; going into my first year as a pro. I was working with Jeremy Clark, the development coach/trainer here, all summer and that definitely gave me an edge. I think if I have the mindset that I am bigger, stronger, and faster than some of these guys, that will help me.”
Moverare offered this assessment of the game – "We didn't sacrifice enough. We let them walk over us. We didn't play the LA system."
— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) September 9, 2018
“Well, if that’s the way they put it…” began coach Mike Stothers, when we shared what some players said about the team’s performance vs. Anaheim. “I think we got behind and got a little down on ourselves — or discouraged — as young guys would. They want to do well, right? They’re disappointed, but that’s part of it. When you get knocked down a bit, it’s about the way you get back up. That’s what we’re here to teach them.”
Akil Thomas, the team’s second round pick in June, started on the second line (centering Brad Morrison and Sheldon Rempal). After taking a penalty in the second period, he appeared to not get much ice-time the rest of the game. However, Stothers didn’t necessarily agree with that claim.
“If you felt that he didn’t get as much ice time, I don’t know – it wasn’t by design,” said the coach. “We pretty much rolled everybody through on the power play, and there were times where we used certain guys on the PK, but everyone got to play. There was no message being sent for the penalty being taken. I mean, [Drake Rymsha] got one for grabbing a guy from behind and Morrison took a couple. It’s too early for that, I’m not going to lose sleep over that.”
One thing noted to us by a few people in Kings management is Anderson-Dolan’s intensity level. There was no shortage of it on display after the game either. He was all business and focused only on what’s right in front of him.
“I try not to look at that,” Anderson-Dolan quickly remarked, when we asked about how he’s handling the pressure of being this year’s prospect with the most eyes on him right now. “My goal is to be in LA and that’s been my goal since the beginning of summer. It’s still my goal, so I’m just trying to take it one day at a time. Whatever is happening with other guys, I can’t control that. I just work hard every day and try to get better every day. That’s my mindset right now.”
Anderson-Dolan also offered some praise for coach Stothers on the night, especially as the score got away from them late – “He does a good job in circumstances like that. He kind of just keeps it even keel. I was lucky enough to be in Ontario at the end of last year, so I’ve had some experience with him [and his intensity]. That’s what that’s what you want in a coach, one that’s dialed into the game. That’s some of what he brings to the table every night and he’s pretty consistent with it. He’s a great coach and has had success for a reason.”
As for the NHL roster, never say never. However, from all indications to us, it will be extremely difficult for Anderson-Dolan to make the Kings opening night group. This has nothing to do with the talented center, yet nearly everything to do with the team’s salary cap situation. It appears the Kings will most likely open the season with 13 forwards, seven defenseman, and two goalies – or one short of the 23-man roster limit. Putting aside their early season road trip, where they will most likely take a full squad, that probably doesn’t leave a window for Anderson-Dolan at the moment.
To get to 13 forwards, center Michael Amadio (waiver exempt) may need to start the season with AHL Ontario. Considering they likely wouldn’t want to put Jonny Brodzinski on waivers just to make room for Anderson-Dolan, the lack of spots available will be a challenge.
Coach John Stevens is potentially looking at a forward group consisting of:
Ilya Kovalchuk – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown
Tanner Pearson – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Alex Iafallo – Adrian Kempe – Gabe Vilardi
Kyle Clifford – Nate Thompson – Trevor Lewis
Now, the Vilardi situation is an interesting one. Obviously, Kings management is disappointed he wasn’t able to attend the Rookie Tournament in Vegas this weekend due to ongoing back issues. Perhaps of bigger concern is the fact that we’re told he will not be available for the opening of main camp later this week. From what we’ve gathered, Vilardi will be in Los Angeles, yet he’ll be out listed as wee-to-week. Indications are his back issue isn’t something that will ever really go away; more like something that will require daily rehab during the season. While that sounds concerning on the surface, there are many players who faced similar issues during their playing days – including two guys named Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. That isn’t to put Vilardi in that stratosphere of player, more to simply say it can be managed if dealt with appropriately.
How Vilardi’s back situation plays out this month remains to be seen. However, if he isn’t available to suit up alongside Kempe come opening night, our money says it will be Rempal in that spot over Anderson-Dolan. And before the hate mail starts rolling in – relax, JAD is only 18 years old and has a very bright future with the Kings. Besides, if they send him back to junior, he also has a spot waiting for him with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in late December. That could be some invaluable experience for the young center.
For more with Eyssimont, see the link to our previous interview below.
If you would rather read a great tale of how Thomas went from being a Kings fan to a Kings prospect, simply click here now.
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