It’s time for another mid-round gem to rise up and become a productive member of the LA Kings roster. Over the past decade, no team has had more success finding NHL caliber players outside the top 50 picks than Mark Yannetti and his scouting staff. Following a few years of hype here on MayorsManor, hockey fans and coach Todd McLellan were able to get a very small glimpse last season of what Mikey Anderson has to offer on the blueline.
Originally selected at the 2017 NHL Draft, Anderson has since captained both Team USA at the World Junior Championship and the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He also won back-to-back NCAA championships with the Bulldogs. In less than a full AHL season, then coach Mike Stothers commonly praised Anderson as a winner and a leader. A late season call-up to the NHL gave him six games under his belt.
A small sample size, indeed. It was enough to earn the praise of Drew Doughty, though.
“Mikey Anderson just seems like he’s very calm, makes good plays too,” said the Norris Trophy winner. “Very impressed with his game and the way he is off the ice, as well.”
Now, Anderson is ready for a 56-game sprint through the NHL. Here are a few comments about what lies ahead…
On the importance of the six games he was able to play last year
I thought it was huge for me. I was fortunate to get the chance to play a couple of games. Matty [Roy] helped me a lot last year, coming in and feeling comfortable right from the start. Then, coming into camp this year, being around the guys for the six games and couple weeks last year, it made coming back this year a lot more comfortable, a lot easier to transition and get camp rolling.
Anderson on his comfort levels skating with Matt Roy, his partner at the end of last season
For sure it’s more comfortable being able to talk over different situations with him. It’s a little less nerve-racking than it was last year.
On his preparation and approach to this season with the extra time off
Like a lot of other younger guys, the long offseason is something we’re probably never going to see again. Being underdeveloped the last couple of years I took a big lead on trying to get into the weight room and put on some extra weight, put on some muscle, get a little faster, get stronger. Having the success we had at the end of last year, trying to come in with the mindset that I wanted that spot out of camp again.
On the a shortened 2021 season potentially helping him ease into his first full year as an NHL player
It kind of helps being somewhat comfortable with the amount of games and schedule and the way things work. But at the same time, this league’s not like any other league. You’re playing against the best players from all over the world every night, every day in practice. It’s obviously still a different scenario. Day-to-day is different from the college lifestyle and even back to junior. Game-wise, yeah, it’s a similar schedule, which can help, but at the same time it’s going to be harder day in and day out versus what college was.
On if the new schedule format this season will potentially make it easier for him to learn about opposing players
I think for sure it does. Being more of a defensive-minded player, you can kind of learn, like you said, the tendencies from the offensive guys, know what they’re trying to do or what they prefer to do versus other plays. Trying to study it, you can feel throughout the games and playing the same teams over and over again, not much is going to change throughout the year for the set players, so you can kind of learn the tendencies and the way that teams are trying to play.
On how he thought he did his first year as a pro and what he learned
Looking back on last season, the biggest adjustment coming to the pro game was finding different ways of filling my day away from the rink. Back in college, you have class, throughout the day you have homework, you have other stuff to do, roommates and teammates that are all living together. Here, you leave the rink and you have nothing else to do for the rest of the day, so it’s trying to find ways to not only get out and keep your mind going but trying to avoid sitting on the couch all day watching TV and finding ways to fill the free time. I lived with Blake Lizotte last year and we like to cook a lot, so we were always going out getting different foods, eating up some time that way, by learning how to cook different stuff instead of ordering out every night. It kills every day trying to figure out what you want to cook and make for the night.
On if he was awestruck in any of his first AHL or NHL games
I think you get a little bit of it. Obviously, your first pro game you get the jitters. I have never played at a level like that before, so you’re trying to figure that out on the run. Especially last year, with how young we were in Ontario, we’re all jumping into the fire together. When you play your first game, you’re out there against guys you grew up watching, you’re playing with [Kopitar] and [Doughty] and guys you play with on fantasy hockey and stuff like that, so now all of a sudden, you’re star stuck with all of them. Getting comfortable though when you get a couple games in and you sit with them in the locker room, you learn about them a little bit and you relax a bit. Then it’s just another hockey game.
On how he wants to build off his brief NHL experience from last year
When you look at them, you can get better in kind of every situation and category. The big thing for me that I noticed was the half-second you get in the AHL to make a play; when you get to the NHL that half-second is gone – where you have to make the play a little quicker. Especially for me, in the way I play the game, I’d like to improve that. Being able to make more clean plays consistently, be a strong defender, and take everything from there.
On the positives he took out of his cup of coffee in the NHL last year
I thought me and [Matt Roy] did a good job defending together. He’s a really good player and very steady and reliable, you know what he’s going to do, game in and game out. I thought the two of us together, we did a good job defending against some of the top players from around the league. Looking at that, that was a big key for me. Watching some of those games with Sean O’Donnell and some of the coaches here, we were looking at that and trying to build off of the six games we had at the end of last year.
On what he has learned from Drew Doughty
For starters, it’s fun to see the way he approaches the game. He’s super talented, has all the skill. But I think he thinks the game super well. He makes little reads that probably go unnoticed to a lot of people. If you sit back and study him and watch his different stick placements, how quick he can make a play and read a breakout coming at him, it’s pretty spectacular. And how loose he is around the rink, he tries to keep things light, but at the same time he knows when it’s time to dial it in and stay serious. He’s a good guy to [study], being able to learn from him. Day in and day out, he does the work. He studies the game, he communicates a lot, which is a big thing for a young guy like me.
On the leadership skills he displays, even at such a young age
It’s very humbling to hear those things. I’m just trying to come to the rink and be myself, especially being in a new setting, not having been around a lot of the guys from the Kings last year besides those two weeks at the end of the year. It’s trying not to change anything from who I normally am. Obviously, I’m not a big talker in the room, I’m more of a one-on-one conversationalist, not the center of the locker room. Trying to just be who I am and take it from there, learn from all the older guys who have been here, who have won Stanley Cups before and take it all in and see what they do on a day-to-day basis.
On what he has seen from Olli Maata and getting to know him
He’s been awesome so far. His track record speaks for itself. He’s very experienced, and like a lot of the other older guys in the room, he’s done a lot with the game already. Coming in, he seems kind of like Drew, where he thinks the game super well, super steady, makes a lot of super smart plays that probably not a lot of guys watching the game will notice, but I try to pick them out. Off the ice, he’s jumped right in, pitching in little things to work on here and there and maybe a different way to defend or a different mindset of a skill to work on. He gives a different perspective. Coming in and not knowing him at all, he’s jumped right in and he’s been a great guy to learn from.
On who he was partnered with in AHL Ontario last season
Throughout the year it rotated. I played a lot with Kale Clague, I played with Durzi for a little bit, I’d probably say those were my main two. Austin Strand a little bit, but mainly Clague and Durzi.
On if he played the left side in Ontario
Yup. Whenever I was with Durzi, I was on the left. With Clague, he was always on the right.
On how he has seen Sean Durzi’s game improve from last year
He’s a very skilled player. I didn’t know him at all until coming into last year. Seeing him out of the blue, he thinks the game very offensively, makes a lot of reads in the offensive zone, throughout the neutral zone, that not everyone can see and make. He’s a fun guy to play with in that fact because he wants the puck, so its easier. You get him the puck and you know he’s going to make a play with it. The one thing that he’s always joked about needing to work on was more of his defensive side of the game. Coming back into camp this year, he looks a lot more steady back there, shutting down more plays, being in the right position more often, while still being able to make the offensive play. He’s trending in the right way, he’s a great player and it’s exciting to see where he can go.
Kings coach Todd McLellan also recently shared some thoughts on his 21-year-old rookie defenseman heading into tonight’s season opener…
McLellan on what Mikey Anderson brings to the table
Well like any player he still has a lot to work on and a lot to polish up. But, as a young player, he positionally was really sound, he anticipated plays well in games, he wasn’t intimidated by playing in certain situations or buildings, and his teammates around him appreciated him as a player. They really found a way to make it work with him and then we’ve seen that carry over here into into training camp. As he moves forward, we expect him to be part of our team. We haven’t anointed any positions yet, but certainly he has a foot in the door. He has played well throughout the first four days of camp and we think that he’ll have a good long career with us.
On Anderson’s leadership potential
He’s mature beyond his years. That’s him, you can tell he was a college player. He’s been around men for a little while, he carries himself very professionally around the rink, on the ice and off of it. He fits our group well and as we move forward, who knows where that will take him as far as the leadership group with the team. Right now, he’s just trying to break into the league as a full-time player. We’re not going to put any added pressure on him for any of those other intangibles.
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