With the success of Jaret Anderson-Dolan in Ontario, what is his future with the LA Kings both this season and beyond?

It was back in August when yours truly made the case for Blake Lizotte to be the fourth line center for the LA Kings. In doing so, it would send the popular Jaret Anderson-Dolan down to the AHL.

I didn’t make any friends that day.

Fast forward to February and I think it’s safe to say both players have excelled in their given roles. Lizotte has continued to do what made him effective for the Kings last season, being a strong defensive center and controlling possession. But he’s also chipped into the offense. He’s already matched his career-high in goals (6) and his 14 points have him within seven of his 2019-20 high of 23. I don’t think anyone is complaining about the decision to keep him around.

In Ontario, Anderson-Dolan has picked up where he left off last season with the Kings – scoring goals. He scored seven goals in 34 games in the NHL during the 2020-21 season, and so far in Ontario, has tallied 17 in 34 games. That goal-per-game mark has him among the best in the AHL (chart via QuantHockey):

And it isn’t just goals. JAD also has 15 assists to give him nearly a point-per-game.

It’s been an impressive season for the Calgary native. While I will stand by my summer opinion that Lizotte being 4C made the most sense for the players and the organization, Anderson-Dolan’s play in the AHL is deserving of an extended look in the NHL at this point. He’s been among the best forwards in Ontario and according to Sean O’Brien’s point-shares metric, a legitimate first-line forward:

In the 2020-21 season, he had what I considered to be an unsustainable 18.9% shooting percentage (20% at 5-on-5). Well, he’s followed that up with a 21.8% with the Reign. In his days in the WHL, he had shooting percentages of 14.3% and 17.1%. While the high-teens may be a lot to ask at the NHL level, there is a talented shooter in Anderson-Dolan.

Watch the release of his first-career NHL goal:

Of his 17 goals this season, ten have come on the power play (tied for the AHL lead). He’s been a crucial part of the best power-play in the AHL. He also has eight power-play assists for a total of 18 of his 32 points coming with the man advantage.

I went back and looked at all ten of those power-play goals. Anderson-Dolan plays in the down low/net-front position in the 1-3-1 formation on the power-play. Two of the goals have been one-time shots from the back door while on a 5-on-3 advantage, one was on a two-on-one rush and another three were on rebounds in front of the net.

There are three, though, that I’d like to highlight and these are tip-ins.

The first of which came on January 8th against the San Diego Gulls. One of the reasons JAD is so good on the power-play is how well he moves without the puck. You’ll notice as the Reign enters the zone, his eyes are always on the play. As the puck moves down to the corner, he moves from the low slot to behind the goal line to make himself available for support.

When Jordan Spence gets the puck at the point, Anderson-Dolan calmly makes his way toward the front of the net. Timing is crucial in plays like these, and JAD demonstrates that here:

The next night against Stockton was another variation of intelligent movement off-the puck. At the start of the clip, T.J. Tynan takes the puck down the wall. Anderson-Dolan realizes Gabriel Vilardi is in the slot area so taking up space in front of the goalie wouldn’t make much sense. As the puck moves to Samuel Fagemo in the right circle, Anderson-Dolan sneaks to the back post to make himself available as a passing outlet.

As Spence gains control at the point, this is where JAD makes his way to the top of the crease and shows a target with his stick. Spence makes a great shot and Anderson-Dolan does the rest with a very nice tip reaching across his body:

The third tip-in goal is a little bit more straightforward. The Reign enters the zone and it quickly moves to Spence. Anderson-Dolan is at the top of the crease and again shows a target with the blade of his stick. Spence puts it in a perfect spot, and another impressive cross-body tip-in by Anderson-Dolan:

These goals are not by chance. Anderson-Dolan’s finishing and ability to process the game have helped him settle into this role on the top power-play unit.

If you’re a Kings fan reading this, you’re probably thinking that there just so happens to be a team in Los Angeles that is struggling on the power-play. And this particular role specifically is one causing great angst.

In Ontario’s last game against Stockton, Anderson-Dolan picked up another assist on the power-play. I alluded to his ability to process earlier. This is a great example. He has the presence to make a pass to Vilardi as opposed to hurriedly firing it into the goalie’s pads:

So where does JAD fit in the organization? Is he a piece of the future, or is he someone that could be used as a trade chip? Personally, I think this is a perfect player to keep around the organization. While I wouldn’t have him in the Quinton Byfield/Brandt Clarke “untouchable” class, at still only 22 years old, he’s not far behind in terms of prospects I’d try to hang on to.

Consider what The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler said in his most recent write-up of the Kings’ prospect pool:

“Anderson-Dolan offers a bit of everything. He’s a capable three-zone player who can help out on both special teams (though I think he has more NHL value as a PK2 guy than a PP2 guy) and plays a tenacious, forechecking game…He’s a malleable, versatile player who can effectively play the retrieval role on a line, freeing up more talented linemates to get open and try things.”

Wheeler also adds the “clock is ticking” on him, though, I’d say that’s more of the Kings’ doing than his. A young player producing the way he has would likely be seeing more NHL time on another team. I am also becoming more of a believer that he can be an asset on the power-play in the NHL.

The note about his versatility is why I think he is a valuable piece to the organization. A natural center, he’s been playing the wing recently in Ontario and has looked the part. As Wheeler notes, he can play both special teams – as he has done with the Reign – effectively. A player who can be a jack-of-all-trades up and down a lineup is a bit of a safety blanket for a coach in certain situations. Especially one with the shooting ability that Anderson-Dolan has. This would allow him to fill in a top-six role in a pinch during a game or extended injury situation.

I’d argue this full season in Ontario, getting the chance to play a larger role and with talented players like Tynan, Frk, and Spence on the power-play have allowed his game to evolve. Anderson-Dolan would be right there with Vilardi for me of the next forward to get the call when the time comes in Los Angeles. He’s ready, it’s just a matter of the opportunity opening up for him.

All this to say it’s worth keeping in mind that while it’s great he has 18 of his 32 points on the power play, that also means he has just 13 at even strength. If he isn’t going to get power-play time with the Kings if/when he gets called back up, expectations shouldn’t be that he’s going to produce these numbers in LA.

Hockey Royalty’s Russell Morgan talked about the different options the Kings have at the trade deadline. I’ve believed it makes sense for them to be sellers of some of their depth forwards, and Anderson-Dolan is one of the reasons why. He is capable of filling a bottom-six role for the Kings right now.

And hey, maybe even alongside Lizotte.