LA Kings: Andreas Athanasiou praises JAD, talks staying next season

Whether Andreas Athanasiou gets dealt at the trade deadline remains to be determined, but the LA Kings forward hinted at staying beyond this year.

Signed to a one-year contract just days before training camp was set to open, Andreas Athanasiou has endured a lot in the 2021 shortened season. The LA Kings forward quarantined before joining the club in practices, scored goals in each of the first three games, and missed two-plus weeks with a positive COVID test.

But through it all, the 26-year-old has seven goals and seven assists in 26 games. The Kings certainly need a lot of things to go right for them to take the fourth and final spot in the West Division. With the April 12 trade deadline looming, Athanasiou’s name has also popped up in trade rumors should the Kings look like they will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive year.

However, the Woodbridge, Ontario, native is focused on helping his current team’s push for the playoffs.

“I don’t think about it all,” Athanasiou said on Wednesday on being linked in trade rumors. “[I’m] just focused on helping this team win. And, you know, we got a good team here with a lot of capabilities. I think, [if] we just keep pushing, we’re right there.”

The Kings entered Thursday four points behind the Blues for the fourth playoff spot in the division. Arizona stands in their way as well, just one point behind St. Louis. These next few games against San Jose, Arizona, and San Jose, again, will paint a clear picture of where the Kings stand in terms of the playoffs.

Athanasiou has primarily played on the Kings’ second line with Jeff Carter and Gabe Vilardi this season. Head coach Todd McLellan shook up the lines on Wednesday, putting Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Adrian Kempe on Athanasiou’s line in an attempt to create more scoring chances. Athanasiou and Anderson-Dolan scored two of the team’s four goals in what was a much-needed victory to keep any hope of a postseason berth alive.

Unlike a lot of the LA Kings roster, the former Detroit Red Wing and Edmonton Oiler has been part of a playoff push before. In a sense, he’s been a steadying force for some of the younger players who are experiencing a postseason race for the first time.

“Obviously, every game is so important right now, and especially with the condensed season and everything,” Athanasiou explained. “So every game is so important. I think we all know that. So it’s just kind of taking it one game at a time, one shift at a time.”

One of those players is Anderson-Dolan. The 21-year-old played in his 22nd NHL game on Wednesday, and the occasion also marked the first time he played with Athanasiou in the 2021 season.

“He’s a workhorse in there,” Athanasiou said of JAD. “He kind of gets everything [and] keeps everything together. He’s got a ton of skill and a ton of work ethic. So he really opens up a lot of ice for us…we’ve played together just for a little bit, but you can see that with every shift and every opportunity we get, we’re kind of building as a line and gain that chem[istry].”

As noted, the Kings will face the San Jose Sharks, with the first of a back-to-back series beginning Friday evening. Los Angeles had trouble scoring in the last series, leaving the SAP Center with zero points. Whatever happens between now and the April 12 trade deadline, and for the remainder of the 2021 season, Athanasiou hinted at wanting to stay beyond this season.

“I’m definitely happy,” the 26-year-old winger said with a smile. “I feel like I found a really good spot here, and all the boys are good. And you know, like I said, we have such a good team here. And there’s so much to look forward to…I’m looking forward to the future.”

Of course, Athanasiou will become a restricted free agent at the end of this season. The LA Kings have the primary say in whether to tender a contract to Athanasiou’s camp. With several prospects expected to jump into the lineup next season, Athanasiou, while still in his prime, can serve as a terrific mentor as the Kings trend towards perennial playoff contenders once again.