May 03, 2012
Josh Anderson, like anyone trying to make it on merit, doesn't trumpet his ties to a famed hockey family.
The London Knights right wing is notable enough by virtue of becoming a NHL draft prospect even though every Ontario Hockey League passed him over a dozen or so times in the 2010 priority selection draft. But when asked to name a person outside of immediate family who's been a big help with his hockey, he doesn't shy away from mentioning his tie to a Hall of Famer. Anderson's mother, Michelle Anderson, is a cousin of Sen. Frank Mahovlich and his brother Peter Mahovlich, NHL stars in the 1960s and '70s. She often babysat for the two famous forwards' families.
"The Mahovliches are always around the house at special events like Christmas dinner, or my mom's cousins' dinner," says Josh Anderson, who's evolved from sleeper to a possible early-round selection this summer. "He [Frank Mahovlich] always talked to me about hockey and how moving on to the next level is going to be hard. Sometimes at Christmas I'm on the ice just for fun with him and his kids.
"If anybody asks, 'do you have any other family who went into hockey?' I tell them," Anderson adds.
The Burlington, Ont., native is the latest in a line of players Knights GM-coach Mark Hunter has turned up who otherwise might have escaped notice. Anderson, who has the physical specs to be a power winger at 6-foot-1 and 183 pounds, was evidently a rough diamond as a 15-year-old. However, an extra season of midget AAA hockey with the Burlington Eagles helped him get some polish and a spot at Knights training camp.
"I thought midget year was really important for me because I thought other people might still be looking at me," says Anderson, who is NHL Central Scouting's 57th-ranked North American skater. "I knew I had to work hard to get drafted. Just the commitment I put into it has been really paid off."
Anderson counted 12 goals and 22 points with a +17 plus/minus rating across 64 regular-season games despite getting nearly zero power-play time. The Knights have four 19-year-old forwards poised to turn pro, so Anderson may already been pencilled into one of those roles.
"Andy has a tremendous amount of upside," says Knights assistant coach and assistant GM Misha Donskov. "He's improved his skating tremendously over the course of the year. He came in undrafted [out of midget] and really wasn't on anybody's radar screen. He's really come into his own in the last four or five months and he has potential to be a pro. He's a big guy who handles the puck well. He's good on the cycle and can make plays on the rush. He plays with a bit of an edge. He's not afraid out there. Since November, December, he's got a boost of confidence, which is really important. If he keeps going on this trajectory, he'll have a good career as a pro."
Donskov adds that Anderson might still have plenty of filling out to do physically. That's something else for NHL teams to consider.
"[Knights assistant coach] Dylan Hunter and I were talking last week in practice: 'every week, Andy looks better,' " Donskov says. "He's growing like a weed."
1. Other than the obvious such as skating and strength, what is the biggest area of the game you must improve before turning pro?
"I think defence is really important. You can always work on defence. As a winger, knowing how to chip pucks out [of the defensive zone] is really important. So is knowing where your D [defencemen] are going to be, looking around, being aware of where the opponent's players are. That's what we're really working on right now."
2. Is there surprise on your end that you made the Knights as an undrafted player and are now in the OHL final?
"I thought the end of last year I'd be playing Junior A, not in the OHL, but I guess it worked out really well.
"I felt like we were a rebuilding team. I had no idea we were going to come this far. Coming into the league, I had to get used to it, bigger guys, faster pace. Once I passed through the exhibition games, I knew what the league was about. I caught up pretty fast."
3. Whom in the NHL do you watch closely for things he does that you can blend into your game?
"I would say Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche. I would go up to his games every Sunday when he was playing for the Brampton Battalion. You'd see him and he'd always make all those moves and he was a great two-way player in the OHL. I think I'm a little more of a physical guy."
4. Aside from London's John Labatt Centre, what is your favourite OHL arena?
"I would say Kitchener [Memorial Auditorium]. When he played them in the playoffs, the building was really loud, probably one of the loudest buildings in the O. It's exciting to play when it's like that. Their fans are really great and the ice is pretty cool too."
5. Favourite TV show and/or movie?
"Movie would be Miracle. TV show, I'm just trying to think... it would be The Bachelor, I got to say. I do watch that a lot."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: OHL Images).