LA Kings: Small sample size critical for Mikey Anderson’s confidence

(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

Mikey Anderson made his LA Kings debut before the shutdown, and the six games he played in saw tremendous growth.

Drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Draft, the LA Kings may have uncovered a hidden gem in Mikey Anderson. The Roseville, Minnesota native tallied five goals with 29 assists for 34 points in 54 games for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL in his draft year.

With a commitment to play collegiate hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Anderson spent two seasons on campus, scoring a combined 11 goals with 39 assists for 50 points. He was named Captain for Team USA U20 in the World Juniors, tallying two goals with three assists there as well while capturing the Silver Medal.

At Minnesota-Duluth, Anderson led the Bulldogs to consecutive National Championships and began the 2019-2020 campaign with the Ontario Reign. He played 53 games with the Kings AHL affiliate before the big-league club promoted him for what ended up being the final six games of the regular season.

His first game was against the New Jersey Devils and his brother, Joey. With his parents in the stands, [Mikey] Anderson stepped onto the ice for his first NHL shift. Paired with Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar led the rush through the neutral zone and into Devils’ territory.

The Devils poked the puck away from Kopitar, and Anderson, without any hesitation, went for the puck, drawing a backhanded pass to Dustin Brown in front of the net to Alex Iafallo for a scoring chance, which generated another chance for Kopitar.

Two scoring chances on a heads-up play. Anderson survived his first shift on ice in the NHL with flying colors, and while I would use the words “cautious” and “careful” to describe his first game, the 21-year-old was by no means a liability.

In fact, he had several heads-up plays that didn’t make the box score but are important to the Kings future. One of the strengths that I noticed when watching each and every one of Anderson’s shifts, was how active his stick is on defense. He is terrific skating backward, keeping his man in front of him, and jars the puck away when he sees the opportunity to do so.

Against Las Vegas:

Another one against New Jersey:

Another against Las Vegas that generated an offsides penalty:

Anderson was always projected to be more of a stay-at-home defenseman in the NHL, and that’s exactly what I saw through his first couple of games. He never overcommitted himself and never left the Kings’ territory vulnerable to an offensive rush. He was the perfect pairing for puck-moving defensemen like Matt Roy or Doughty.

But as each shift went by, I noticed that Anderson’s confidence began to grow. He was playing with conviction, using his body to disrupt opposing forwards scoring chances. And in the final three games, the box score was reflecting Anderson’s impact, tallying a combined seven hits and five blocked shots while forcing eight shots on net.

For reference, through his first three games, he had three hits, five blocked shots, and only one shot registered.

I particularly like the play below because it was one of the first times that I saw Anderson skate that deep into the opposition’s zone. He uses his body well to shield the puck (twice) and caroms it behind the net, setting up a scoring chance for Adrian Kempe from the right dot.

It wasn’t all good for Anderson despite the mostly positive reviews. There were several instances where he could have done a better job clearing the puck out of the Kings’ zone. Below, he tries to clear the puck, but Reilly Smith is right there for Vegas. I’d like to see him utilize the boards to ricochet it out of the zone here. Instead, it stays in the zone and sets up a scoring opportunity for Vegas.

Anderson could end up being a five to ten goal-scorer over an 82-game slate, but his best traits definitely come on the defensive side of the puck. Still, he scored his first NHL goal on a faceoff win with Martin Frk setting him up for the one-timer from the blue line.

“It feels awesome, it’s very fun,” Anderson said on his first goal, via “You dream about it so it’s pretty exciting to have it happen.”

Anderson is expected to get a long look in the 2020-2021 season, and it would seem appropriate that Todd McLellan pairs him with either Roy or Doughty. It’s an extremely small sample size to go off of, but the Kings had a 71.4 percent goal share with Anderson and Roy on the ice, broken down into five goals scored and just two allowed.

For comparison’s sake, and again small sizes here, the Kings didn’t score any or allow any goals with the Anderson-Doughty pairing. But it would appear, based on those numbers that the Anderson-Roy pairing makes the most sense to start with on Opening Night.