Part 2 of a two-part story on Los Angeles Kings defenseman prospect Mikey Anderson. Be sure to read Part 1 first!
EL SEGUNDO, CA — As reported in this space on February 2, Los Angeles Kings defenseman prospect Mikey Anderson got a long, hard look during the team’s 2019 training camp and has continued to turn heads this season with the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League.
The 20-year-old, 5-11, 200-pound native of Roseville, Minnesota has scored two goals and has contributed ten assists for 12 points, with a -14 plus/minus rating and 14 penalty minutes in 45 games this season.
As reported in Part 1 of this story, the Kings are very high on Anderson for what he has brought to the Reign, both on and off the ice. Indeed, there is a lot to like and even get excited about. But the fact remains that he is just 20 years old and not even through his first year at the professional level. As such, he still has some rough edges to his game that most young prospects have to smooth out on their journey to the National Hockey League.
One of those is figuring out how to be more consistent in his play.
“Consistency, still, is something he needs to improve upon,” said Reign head coach Mike Stothers. “But having said that, he’s low-maintenance. Even from shift-to-shift, a player could have a great shift, thinking he had things figured out with his gap and coverage. But if you straighten up for just a second, there goes the forward with a scoring opportunity.”
“That’s the biggest thing, and it’s even more important in the NHL, where guys only need a millisecond to capitalize on you letting up,” added Stothers. “That’s the biggest thing for these guys. Mikey’s good at it. He’s just got to get more experience. That’s the only thing Mikey’s lacking right now—pro experience.”
That lack of experience can lead to mistakes on the ice. But Anderson is working on that.
“At this level, the pace doesn’t change too much, but you’re playing against men and the margin for error is smaller,” he said. “If you make a mistake, it’s going to be pretty evident. Even going up to the NHL, you learn that a mistake might not cost you in the AHL, but in the NHL, the puck will be in the back of your net. So you have to make sure that you’re hard on the puck, you’re hard on your man and you’re bearing down, trying to get the job done.”
On the other side of the coin, a player cannot worry too much about making mistakes. But Anderson seems to be ahead of the curve in that aspect of the game.
“You’ve got to have a short memory,” he said. “You have to let it go—shake it off. You can think about it later, go back and watch it. But in a game, it’s a quick turnaround. You’ve got to learn from it and keep your head level so that you can make the play the next time.”
“Some guys will fight it,” he added. “There’s games where you’re in your own head about [making mistakes], thinking that you’ve got to have a better game by doing this or that. But if you’re thinking about it too much, you’re not going to make plays. That’s just going to hinder your development.”
“That’s something I focus on. All I can practice is making plays whenever I can. You learn different spots—when you can make a play and when you can’t. You watch video and you see a play you made, but then you figure out that you could’ve done something else. It’s a learn-and-go process. But you have to take some chances to make plays. That’s going to help my development and hopefully, get me to the next level.”
Since training camp, Anderson has done extensive work with the Kings development staff, most notably, former Kings defenseman Sean O’Donnell.
“It’s a lot of little things that you don’t really think about,” Anderson said, describing his work with O’Donnell. “If you’re going into the corner to defend, it’s stick position and the angle you’re taking—where you want the guy to go. Then you break a game down, We’ll watch a period from the previous weekend and talk about what worked and what didn’t—trying to learn what plays I could’ve made. Overall, we’re just trying to identify the things we need to focus on to improve my game in whatever way that we can.”
As it is for most young prospects, adding some muscle to his frame is critical for Anderson.
“There’s always room for him to get stronger,” Stothers noted. “That was probably the biggest thing for him coming into training camp and coming out of training camp.”
“You’re playing against professionals—men,” Stothers added. “Whether it’s the NHL or the AHL, it’s a tough grind. I don’t think the working out part has been a priority for Mikey. He didn’t really need to do that. But now, he’s realizing that the game would be a little easier if he was a little bit stronger and a little bit quicker.”
“He’s beginning to realize that he’s got to do some work off the ice and learn how to position himself a little bit differently so that he’ll get better leverage against [opposing players]. But he’s a smart kid. He’s figuring it out as he goes.”
Anderson indicated that he knows that he has work to do in the gym and he expects to make some significant gains in the off-season.
“I’m still a 20-year-old kid, so it’s going to happen with time,” he noted. “But I have to do my part every day to get stronger. Last summer was the first summer where my body really began to mature, fully. I started developing a little more, physically. I’ll have to push a little harder this summer to make the [strength] gains I need.”
Anderson has to work on parts of his game that most young prospects, especially first-year pros, need to work on. But noting the maturity and his strong mental game (see part 1 of this story), he seems to be ahead the curve in his development.
“I try to be a heady player who makes the right reads and the right plays,” he noted. “I’m very fortunate to have had the opportunities that I’ve gotten, so far.”
“I just want to keep rounding out my game,” he added. “I feel that I’ve been improving throughout the year. I’ve played in every situation so far—even strength, power play, penalty-kill, three-on-three. I’ve been talking with our coaches and development staff a lot, and we’re all on the same page about what I need to keep working on and improving on.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings defenseman prospect Mikey Anderson (right), shown here with Kings forward prospect Boko Imama (left), during a recent practice with the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League at the Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo, California. Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
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