The Los Angeles Kings have depended on veteran stars such as Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick for years now, but eventually the next wave of players will have to play prominent roles. Gabe Vilardi is one first-rounder that the organization will be looking to, but the big center has been held back by injuries so far.
With Vilardi and veteran Dustin Brown on the shelf to start the season, rookie center Jaret Anderson-Dolan has stepped into the mix at the tender age of 19. The 41st overall pick in the 2017 draft, Anderson-Dolan was the top scorer for the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs last season, racking up 91 points in 70 games. A responsible, two-way pivot who skates well and pushes the pace up front, the kid is now getting a bachelor’s degree in the pro game from that veteran Los Angeles squad.
“It’s been great being around the older guys and the coaching staff,” Anderson-Dolan said. “Practising with these guys, you’re going to get better every day and that’s something I’m trying to do: build every aspect of my game and take everything in. Obviously I want to be here longer than nine games.”
That nine game reference pertains to the legendary cut-off for many young players, who are sent back to junior by their NHL teams before Game No. 10 in order to preserve a year of the youngster’s entry-level contract. In the meantime, Anderson-Dolan was all set to move out of the hotel he had been posted up in – captain Anze Kopitar had invited the rookie to live at his house.
“He’s a great guy to be around and someone I want to model my game after,” Anderson-Dolan said. “He plays the game the right way.”
That’s a pretty sweet spot for ‘JAD,’ even if it does turn out to be temporary. After all, Kopitar is a two-time Selke Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defensive forward, not to mention a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Kings.
As is the case with many teams that go through a Cup window, Los Angeles does not have the strongest of pipelines right now. In the 2018 edition of The Hockey News’ Future Watch, the Kings’ system was ranked 26th in the league. But getting an early return from a second-rounder such as Anderson-Dolan bodes well for the team, which is back to making an average amount of selections in the draft (seven per year the past two years) after picking just 10 times total between 2015 and 2016. The franchise also has all of its picks for the next three drafts still.
Originally from Calgary, Anderson-Dolan has spent the past three seasons in Spokane, the eastern Washington state town near the Idaho border. And as much as Anderson-Dolan has loved his time with the Chiefs, he smiles when asked about life in Los Angeles.
“There’s a little more to do,” he said. “But I don’t have a car right now, so I’ve been a little stranded at the hotel.”
Usually Anderson-Dolan has gone to Hawaii for rest and relaxation after the season (he has an uncle there), but he didn’t have time this summer, what with a world junior camp to attend for Canada, not to mention all his Kings-affiliated duties. But if the youngster can stick with Los Angeles for longer than nine games, missing out on a tropical paradise for one year will be the last thing on his mind.