The Devils will boast a talented group of prospects in college hockey next season. Up front this group will consist of LW Brett Seney (SR, Merrimack), RW JD Dudek (JR, Boston College), and RW Joey Anderson (SO, Minnesota Duluth). On the back end the Devils will be following Jeremy Davies (SO, Northeastern), Reilly Walsh (FR, Harvard), and D Matthew Hellickson (FR, Notre Dame). C Aarne Talvitie could join this group though it's likely he waits until 2018-19 to join Penn State. With all that said, the player that I am most interested in is Joey Anderson. The recently turned 19 year old spent his age 18 season as a true freshman, as opposed to the many 19 and 20 year old freshman players you see in college hockey. He earned his place on the Bulldogs top line as a near point per game player and was a key role player on the USA U20 team that won World Junior Championship Gold in January. You can check out his full career stats below courtesy of EliteProspects.
At the time of the 2016 draft, many weren't sure of what to make of Anderson. He was a complementary piece on a line with 2016 1st round picks Clayton Keller and Kieffer Bellows for the USNTDP. While having less talent than those two players, he received praise from various draft outlets for his ability to position himself for scoring chances - in space and at the front of the net, as well as the willingness to do the dirty work at both ends of the rink to open things up more for his linemates. In this 2016 draft profile, Chris Dilks of SBN College Hockey praised Anderson's shot - noting that it was heavy with a quick release, his hockey IQ, and his work ethic. He did cite Anderson's lack of speed as a concern but that is still something that Anderson can improve on in college.
Prior to last season, I was just hoping that Anderson would be able to cement a full time role in the UMD line up and crack the USA WJC team. He absolutely surpassed that by becoming one of UMD's most productive players and one of the best freshman in the NCAA, even being named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team. Among UMD players, Anderson finished tied-4th in goals (12), 3rd in assists (25), 2nd in points (37), 4th in shots per game (2.64), 3rd in Goals Created (13.48), 3rd in Goals Created per Game (0.35 - just 0.01 behind 2nd), tied-2nd in Team Point% (10.03%), and 2nd in NHLE (33). Among the U19 players in the NCAA last season he was tied-5th in goals, 2nd in assists, tied-3rd in points, and 6th in points per game - 0.02 behind 5th. He showcased his skill and work ethic to put up those numbers. Anderson certainly made the most of his opportunity playing on the top line Alex Iafallo and Dominic Toninato. That line earned the praise of Denver coach Jim Montgomery prior to the national title game between Denver and Minnesota Duluth, that Denver ultimately won. Here are Montgomery's thoughts via USCHO.com:
“They’re a great college line, and I think maybe the best line in the country,” said Denver coach Jim Montgomery. “And I think you’ve just got to know when they’re out there and match their intensity. Their intensity, I think, fuels that team."
As mentioned earlier, Anderson was a key contributor for the USA U20 team at the WJC en route to their Gold Medal. He started out in a role on checking line but eventually worked his way up to the top line with Colin White and Clayton Keller. His presence on that line opened up the ice for his linemates and allowed them to flourish while he always made sure the defensive side was covered. Anderson really has a knack for being a "Swiss army knife" player, able to fit in anywhere in the line up and do his job. We will see Anderson next on the ice for the USA Hockey 2017 World Junior Summer Showcase.
With the graduations of forwards Alex Iafallo and Dominic Toninato, Anderson figures to not only remain a key part of the Minnesota Duluth offense, but perhaps even be the go to guy. I'd expect him to once again to fit in on the Bulldogs top line and perhaps even produce at over a point per game pace this upcoming season. He'll also be a key returning member for the USA U20 team as they defend their championship next winter. Anderson doesn't have the high end talent of fellow Devils prospects Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, or Michael McLeod. But he does have the potential to develop into a solid middle 6 winger, a guy who can chip in offensively, play a great defensive game, and help drive play forward. Being able to develop those players is very valuable and I have hopes that Anderson (and Blake Speers) can become those types of players for the Devils in the future. Please let me know in the comments what you think of Anderson as a prospect? Where you surprised by his freshman season? What are your expectations for him next season as well as in the future? Thank you for reading!