LA Kings: Jaret Anderson-Dolan knew roster spot was not guaranteed

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports) /

While Jaret Anderson-Dolan returned to the LA Kings lineup on Wednesday, he knew his roster spot was not guaranteed coming back from injury.

Jaret Anderson-Dolan waited his turn as the LA Kings crowded center position rotated players in and out of the lineup, trying to find the right combinations. Eventually, the former second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft made his 2021 debut on February 5. Over the course of the next six games, Anderson-Dolan ignited a Kings’ fourth line that desperately needed to provide secondary scoring.

In all, “JAD” tallied three goals and two assists heading into the team’s February 18 matchup against the Arizona Coyotes. While the Kings extended their winning streak to three games, the Calgary, Alberta, native took a hit up against the sideboards, sidelining him for a couple of weeks.

Back to the drawing board for the Kings, re-inserting Michael Amadio into the lineup, who has yet to score a goal in 2021. As the calendar flipped from February to March, Anderson-Dolan began skating with the team again, wearing a red non-contact jersey in the morning skates; and he traveled with the team on their four-game road trip in Anaheim and Colorado.

All signs pointed toward JAD returning to the lineup this past Monday against the Blues, but a snowstorm prevented the LA Kings from leaving Denver. Monday’s game was postponed to a future date and Anderson-Dolan’s return was delayed a few more days.

“It’s a little bit frustrating, but [I’m] just try to take the positives,” Anderson-Dolan said of Monday’s game being canceled, delaying his return to the lineup. “That game getting canceled gave me a couple extra days of full practice with the team to kind of get my legs back and my timing back. But yeah, I mean, [it was] a little bit frustrating. You want to get back in as soon as you can.”

Anderson-Dolan skated on the Kings’ third line in Wednesday’s game, a familiar place alongside Carl Grundstrom and Trevor Moore. The trio was buzzing before JAD’s injury, and they picked up right where they left off. The Kings had a big first period, scoring three goals, including goals from Anderson-Dolan’s linemates, in which he recorded assists on both.

The Kings knocked off a very good Blues team by a 4-1 score, a team that is immediately ahead of them in the West Division.

With the Kings so deep up the middle, Rasmus Kupari made his highly-anticipated NHL debut while Anderson-Dolan was sidelined. The former played in three games before being sent back to the AHL as the Kings both tried to give some of the younger players a look while desperately attempting to get production from the bottom-six forwards.

Had Kupari continued his torrid pace with the Reign at the NHL level, who knows if the Kings would have stuck with him rather than inserting Anderson-Dolan back into the lineup.

“Nothing’s guaranteed at this level,” Anderson-Dolan explained. “So, you know, injuries suck, but you’re definitely not going to be guaranteed to get back in. So when you get the chance, you got to make the most of it. And that was kind of my focus, having that time off there. In the skates [that] I was doing, and in practice, I was just trying to work on my habits and my details so that when the time came again to get back in, I’d be able to play my game and make a difference again.”

At this point, Anderson-Dolan offers the Kings so much more than we’ve seen from Amadio this season. The former plays a speedy, aggressive game — so much that Todd McLellan bumped him and his linemates from the fourth to the third line.

According to NaturalStatTrick, Anderson-Dolan has accounted for a 57.1xGF% in approximately 84 minutes of on-ice time this season; Amadio, 41.7xGF% in nearly 210 minutes. It’s evident JAD should continue playing as long as he’s healthy. Amadio and Blake Lizotte can fight over the fourth-line centerman duties until another prospect comes along to take their spot as well.

Again, it’s a small sample size, but the Kings sorely missed Anderson-Dolan’s presence among the bottom-six forwards. During the period of time that he was rehabbing, though, the former Spokane Chief used the time to breakdown film and identified areas where he can improve.

“Watching video of the couple games I played there just to stay engaged and, obviously, watching our games,” the 21-year-old explained in how he used the time off. “But kind of looking back on the games that I was playing and kind of what was allowing me to be effective. Honestly, it was more just to stay engaged and keep my hockey mind going.”

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