EL SEGUNDO, CA — In the second round of the 2017 National Hockey League Draft on June 25, the Los Angeles Kings got a skilled, speedy center in Jaret Anderson-Dolan, but they also got a prospect with a strength of character that usually isn’t apparent in someone who is just 17 years old.
“He borders on elite speed,” Kings Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yanetti said in an exclusive interview with Frozen Royalty. “He’s very fast. He’s probably slightly faster than he is quick, but we’re talking about two assets that are on a higher plane.”
“When I say that he’s slightly faster than he is quick, it’s not diminishing his quickness,” Yanetti added. “His speed is at quite a high level. The other factor is that he can score and he’s versatile. He’s got an offensive balance [between scoring and playmaking]. He’s able to advance the puck individually, in a rush-based way, a more rink-long manner. That’s the best aspect of his skating.”
“His quickness is really good once you get to the tighter areas. He’s able to create space in a variety of situations and in a variety of ways. The more versatile you can be, and the more areas your speed can affect a game, the better off you are. It makes it much harder to contain him, whether it’s a ‘half-court,’ possession game, or a rink-long, rush-based game.”
The 5-11, 191-pound native of Calgary, Alberta played in 72 regular season games for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League this season, scoring 39 goals, and adding 37 assists for 76 points with a +4 plus/minus rating and 22 penalty minutes.
Anderson-Dolan also served as captain of Canada’s team in the 2017 World Junior Championships (under 18 years of age).
Although speed, quickness and offensive skill are likely the first things anyone notices about his game, Anderson-Dolan prides himself on his two-way play.
“I consider myself a hard-working, two-way forward,” he said. “I want to produce as much as I can. I love scoring, I love making plays for my teammates, but I also take a lot of pride in the defensive side of the game. I think it starts in the defensive zone. If you’re good in your defensive zone, you’re going to have more chances, offensively. For me, I just want to lock it down on defense and be a reliable player on both ends.”
“It’s something I’ve worked on a lot with Don Nachbaur back in Spokane, [prior to his recent hiring as Kings assistant coach], but I think there’s a lot of room for me to grow in the defensive side of the game, and I think I definitely need to pay a lot more attention to that than I did in my first year in the WHL.”
“Like I said, you won’t have a chance to show off your offensive skill and your speed unless you’re good in the defensive zone. I’ve worked hard on that, but I still have a lot of room to grow in that aspect.”
Anderson-Dolan credited his coach for his two-way ability.
“It’s a big jump from midget to the WHL, so when I first came in, I didn’t have good gaps [in defensive coverage], I wasn’t taking good angles and I wasn’t winning battles,” he noted. “We just watched a lot of video, and paid attention to details in practice. [Nachbaur] pointed stuff out that you don’t see during a game. That really helped me to see where I was at and to see things I need to be better at.”
Nachbar being on the Kings coaching staff won’t give Anderson-Dolan any advantage, in terms of making the big club’s roster down the road, and he is fully aware of that.
“It’s nice knowing a face coming in, but if I want to make this team in the future, it’s going to be through me working hard, not the people I know,” he stressed. “Even though it’s nice having Don here and having experience with him, I’m looking to make this team by working hard and playing my game.”
Speaking of his game, Anderson-Dolan indicated that face-offs and physical strength are among his priorities as areas where he needs the most improvement.
“Face-offs—being a center, I think I need to get better at that,” he said. “Puck possession is such a huge part of the game these days, so I have to keep working on that if I want to stay at center.”
“I need to continue building my lower body strength and my core strength,” he added. “I also think my skating can take another step to make a difference at the next level.”
Although stranger things have happened, Anderson-Dolan is destined to return to Spokane and the WHL in 2017-18 with the mission to improve in all areas.
“I’m a little bit of a smaller guy, so maybe it’ll be a year back in junior,” he said. “But I want to make this team as soon as I can. Whether that’s next year, or the year after that, I have a lot of areas that I need to get better at, so I’ll just focus on developing in those areas, taking the feedback [that the Kings development staff] gives me. I’ll work on that so I can make that jump as soon as possible.”
Yanetti indicated that Anderson-Dolan should be able to play left wing for the Kings someday, not just at center, even though he has little experience in any position other than center
“I haven’t played a lot of wing,” he noted. “Maybe a couple of times in a couple of games. I’ve played all my life at center. I think center is one of the hardest positions in hockey, so playing center—it’s easier for a center to play wing than it is for a wing to play center. But even though I haven’t played a lot of wing, I think I could move over there if I have to.”
Going back to draft weekend, Anderson-Dolan was selected by the Kings in the second round, 41st overall, on Day 2 of the 2017 NHL Draft on Saturday, June 25, a moment he got to share with loved ones.
“That’s a moment you wait for your whole life,” he beamed. “When your name finally gets called, it’s a big relief, but [there’s] also a lot of excitement. I was lucky enough to have my family there—my Moms and my brother, my girlfriend. They were all there. To share that moment with them was really cool.”
Yes, you read that right. He said, “my Moms…” plural. Anderson-Dolan was raised by two mothers, which has been a bit of a double-edged sword for him and his family.
As reported by multiple sources, Anderson-Dolan faced discrimination from WHL teams that refused to select him in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft because he was raised by two mothers. He was ranked as a top five prospect in that draft, but slipped all the way to the 14th pick, where he was selected by Spokane.
Despite having to deal with blatant discrimination, that adversity has contributed to Anderson-Dolan becoming a better player and more importantly, a better person.
“The way I was raised, I think it definitely impacts every part of my life—everyday life and hockey, as well,” he said. “I’m pretty lucky to have really caring parents, [Fran and Nancy], who are both leaders in their own [right], so I consider myself to be a leader. I work hard and try to lead by example. I definitely learned that from my parents. I grew up watching them [work hard and lead by example], that’s the one thing I took from them.”
“Adversity helps you build character,” he added. “Even though it sucks when it happens, you can learn a lot from it. I’m not going to say that I’m happy I went through that, but it definitely helped me become the person and player I am.”
Yanetti was blown away by Anderson-Dolan’s character, but he noted that it wasn’t simply facing discrimination and persecution that helped him build character.
“Whatever discrimination he’s faced has helped shape the strength of his character, and I think it goes further than that,” he said. “In doing all the research I’ve done on any draft prospect—talking to coaches, talking to people, talking to the kid—all that stuff, I would think that the way he was raised by the parents he was raised by actually made him the person he is, and allows him to be able to deal with any situation, any adversity, or anything that comes up. That framework was put in place from when he was very young to the time he started to become the man that he is. You’ve got a whole bunch of areas and a whole bunch of factors contributing to that.”
“You don’t hear me use the word, ‘special’ a lot. But when you talk about his character, that word is certainly applicable, and probably doesn’t go far enough. You get special character just from dealing with adversity. You get that because you were raised a certain way, because you were raised by certain people. That doesn’t happen by accident. That doesn’t happen just through negativity or adversity. It can be shaped in those ways and when you have strength of character, it can be enhanced through adversity. But it has to be there before you deal with that adversity, and in his case, it certainly was and is. It’s a rare thing, I find. I think the word, ‘character’ is used in a far too cavalier way. But for this kid? You can’t extoll the virtues of character nearly enough.”
When asked during a media conference call about the fact that WHL teams discriminated against Anderson-Dolan, Yanetti had a very blunt response.
“I can answer that question two ways and one will certainly not endear me to people,” he said. “If anybody had a problem with his family situation, they should go screw themselves and find another job.”
“I hope that we’re at the point where a non-traditional family is considered a traditional family,” he added. “I would hope we’re there. Either way, we got a kid we coveted. I’m happy he was raised the way he was, and I’m happy that he’s the player he is.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings winger prospect Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
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