Always. Be. Ready.
Three simple words every hockey coach reminds players of all ages. And for 24-year-old Jaret Anderson-Dolan, he doesn’t take advice like that lightly.
Limited to just one game with the Kings this season – a contest vs. Carolina nearly a month ago, where he had less than seven minutes of ice time – life has become all about being prepared for that next opportunity, whenever and wherever it may happen.
Friday morning, the versatile forward was assigned to the AHL as a means of getting him some game action. The surroundings weren’t totally foreign to him. Anderson-Dolan has skated in over 100 games for the Ontario Reign previously. Sandwiched in-between, he’s also suited up for 97 games as a member of the Kings. It’s been an up and down experience since first being selected by the Kings (41st overall) in 2017.
Sunday night, he was back in Ontario, and once again finding the back of the net.
“A great pass by Ritter [goaltender David Rittich], nice and flat with nice sauce on it,” Anderson-Dolan said, sounding like most hockey players of his generation, while describing the first of his two goals on the evening. “I thought he was going to give it to the d-man. But, [the Eagles] were changing, so I tried to just linger. I was hoping he saw me. He looked up, we made eye contact right away and it was a perfect pass. As it was coming, I thought it was gonna hop [over my stick]. It landed nice and flat, though, so great play by him.”
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) November 13, 2023
Ever the teammate. Constantly giving praise to others. It’s sort of become the calling card of a player who has previously been described as professional, a workhorse, and methodical by those who work closest to him.
Following a stellar junior career in the WHL – where he scored 39 and 40 goals in his final two seasons with the Spokane Chiefs – the Calgary native went through a metamorphosis required of many young players as they transition to life in professional hockey. It was time to focus more on defense and play an all-around game.
After playing 34 games with the big club (and chipping in 7 goals) during the 2020-21 season, he seemed to have found his niche. However, the following year he only drew in a handful of times. He found himself back in the AHL, with another successful offensive campaign, netting 24 goals in 54 games.
Through it all, the Kings still believe in him. Despite not getting the NHL playing time to prove it, the organization re-signed him to a new one-year contract this past summer. For his part, Anderson-Dolan is still as committed as ever too.
He never complains, never causes a fuss. Anderson-Dolan simply goes about his business very much like a hockey machine.
“It’s just staying in the moment, I think, honestly,” he shared following his two games with the Reign over the weekend. “It’s obviously not easy, but you take any opportunity you can get, no matter where it is, and try to help the team win. I think it’s good to keep your game sharp. If you’re going a couple weeks without games up there, it’s good to come down here and be a part of two good wins, but also work on my game and get some good minutes.”
Making the most of something is exactly what he did on Sunday. Following an initial outing on Friday, where he didn’t show up on the scoresheet, JAD led all players in Sunday’s matinee with five shots and was named First Star of the game for his two-goal performance.
“Last game, I had a couple chances and didn’t get it through,” he noted regarding Friday night. “So, I just tried to get some on net. Usually, good things happen when you do.”
Ah yes, the hockey cliches. While they can usually be boring, somehow, he makes them sound entertaining.
Like any good hockey player, Anderson-Dolan has a long memory too. He was keenly aware that Sunday’s Reign victory wasn’t simply another two points. It was also a victory over the team that has knocked them out of the postseason three years running.
“That playoff series a couple years ago, we had a good team, and it didn’t go our way” he said, while seemingly still chewing on that taste of bitter defeat. “You come down, and no matter where you are, you’re trying to help the team win. It’s good to be part of two big wins and help the team get out of a little slide we were on here……good leadership by the older guys, and the younger guys do a good job too. That’s something where, even though it’s early in the season, that’s good to have that confidence that when it gets down to the end of it, that you can close those games out.
For him personally, though, back to work it was. Time to lace up the skates and get after it.
There weren’t even a lot of pregame words necessary for a player like Anderson-Dolan, though.
“With my experience, as a player, if you don’t play a lot, it’s hard,” said Reign coach Marco Sturm, explaining that he just left Anderson-Dolan alone pre-game, not needing to say much. “You could tell, last game he was rusty, basically. That’s the nice part for me, as a former player, I know how it feels. That’s why I was not worried. He had a practice with us [on Saturday] and I knew he was going to come out much better today. He just needs reps. Right now, he doesn’t have that with the Kings, that’s just a matter of time.”
For his part, Anderson-Dolan is finding the balance in doing what needs to be done in the moment with keeping a similar focus each day moving forward.
“I think he knows that I know my game,” JAD said in a complementary way, thankful of how Sturm handles him. “I’ve been a pro for long enough that I know what I need to do — no matter where it is, play the same sort of game, whether it’s the first line or the fourth line or whatever it is. At the same time, it’s just sharpening your game for wherever the next opportunity is.”