Very few players are good enough to stick in the NHL off-skill alone. Players like Kevin Fiala and Adrian Kempe are able to make it work, but they’re the exception, not the rule.
Most players, even players selected in the first two rounds, have to find a niche to keep them in the NHL.
One Los Angeles Kings player who’s still trying to find that niche is 2017 second-round pick Jaret Anderson-Dolan.
Anderson-Dolan played just 46 games last season, and four playoff games, as he struggled to find a consistent spot in the lineup. He needs to develop some trait that allows him to stick.
The Kings have limited roster spots and not enough cap to carry a full roster. So, he needs to find that trait soon.
None of this is to say Anderson-Dolan is a bad player, he’s a solid bottom-six forward in the NHL. He was consistently praised by coaches and teammates last season for his versatility and consistency when he did suit up last season.
Able to play both center and wing, Anderson-Dolan is a hard-working and intelligent forward with a scoring touch.
He was an efficient scorer last season too. Scoring 0.92 goals per 60, good enough for fourth-best amongst Kings who played more than 10 games.
Lacking the high-end shot of players like Samuel Fagemo or Arthur Kaliyev, Anderson-Dolan creates his goals through excellent spatial awareness. He finds soft ice well and has a good enough shot to finish his chances, reflected by a solid 1.8 goals above expected.
While not a big or overly physical player, Anderson-Dolan is willing to throw his weight around too. He finished last season fourth in hits per 60 amongst Kings who played 10 or more games. Granted, that might also reflect on the Kings’ overall lack of physicality.
While there are some real positives to his game, Anderson-Dolan doesn’t do anything at a high enough level to really stick in the NHL.
I’ve said this in the past, if Anderson-Dolan could develop one defining skill, he’d be a lock for the Kings’ roster next season. He needs to add that extra element, become an elite penalty-killer, add muscle and become really physical or take the next step in his goal-scoring.
Anything that can separate him from just being good. Right now, he’s a 6/10 in every category and he needs one of those to creep up into the 8/10 range.
I think of a player like Alex Iafallo who just left. Anderson-Dolan is as skilled and probably has a better goal-scoring touch, but Iafallo has an elite quality — his defense — which will always keep him in the lineup above Anderson-Dolan.
Looking at the current roster, the same can be said for Carl Grundstrom’s physicality and Trevor Lewis’ penalty killing.
There’s still time for Anderson-Dolan to develop a standout trait, but it’s running out. He has to come into camp this summer and show something to separate him from the pack.
He’ll likely be fighting for the 13th forward spot with Fagemo and while Anderson-Dolan is a more complete player, it’s that elite trait that sets the two apart.
Anderson-Dolan’s main offensive weapon is goal scoring and he’s just a step below Fagemo in this area.
A Niche for Anderson-Dolan to Target:
It is the hole Iafallo left behind that Anderson-Dolan has to target. Not the third-line wing spot, but what Iafallo brought. Todd McLellan often referred to Iafallo as the team’s deodorant, cleaning up the stink others left behind.
That’s what Anderson-Dolan has to become. He won’t be a top-nine player off skill alone, but does have the brain and skating to become a useful role player.
If he can become that “deodorant” for the team, he can take Grundstrom’s spot on the fourth line. He’ll then have to take advantage of players getting injured or leaving in the next few seasons.
If he can become that “trusting” player who can provide secondary scoring, he’ll have a solid career in Los Angeles. If not, he’ll still be an NHLer, but for another organization.
With players like Fagemo, Francesco Pinelli, Alex Laferriere and Alex Turcotte all closing in on an NHL spot, the odds are stacked against Anderson-Dolan a bit. But he has the talent to make it work.