On Wednesday morning, the Los Angeles Kings announced that defenseman Mikey Anderson would be placed on injured reserve, retroactive to March 7. There has been no news on how long Anderson will be out, but he will miss at least the next three games. He has been a huge part of this Kings team, and they will have a hard time replacing him if he’s out long-term. Here’s a breakdown of what they’re losing with Anderson’s injury and some options to replace him.
What the Kings are Losing
Despite some recent struggles, the pairing of Anderson and Drew Doughty has been one of the best league-wide. They’ve posted excellent possession metrics all season, and the team outscores their opposition with that pairing on the ice. While Doughty is the star of this pairing, Anderson plays a huge role and has been instrumental for the team this season. Not a flashy player by any means, he has developed into a top-pairing, shut-down defenseman.
His 4.2 even-strength defense goals above replacement (EVD) ranks him 13th in the league, according to Evolving-Hockey. This is even more impressive when you remember Anderson routinely faces the opposition’s best players, something not everyone above him in this category can say. According to Jack Fraser (JFresh Hockey) and TopDownHockey’s model, Anderson ranks in the 89th percentile for defensive output. All-in-all, he shows up very well across multiple analytics models and produces fantastic defensive metrics.
It’s more than just his personal numbers that make him such an important player for the Kings. His style of play complements Doughty perfectly and has facilitated Doughty’s best offensive season of his career. With the puck, Anderson is a safe pair of hands who rarely turns the puck over and consistently helps the team exit the zone with possession. His 68.8% exits with possession put him above the league average of 66%, while his 8.28 puck retrievals leading to exits per 60 put him just below the league average of 8.6.
These numbers don’t jump off the page, but when considering Doughty’s high-risk, high reward playing style, which can get the team into trouble at times, having a reliable presence with the puck like Anderson is huge. He’s also great at suppressing chances off the rush, allowing just 3.25 entries with a chance against per 60 minutes. This defensive solidity once again complements Doughty’s game, allowing the former Norris Trophy winner to rush up the ice more often, confident that Anderson can handle any defensive responsibility placed on him.
In losing Anderson, the Kings not only lose a fantastic defender but could potentially see a decrease in Doughty’s offensive output, as he might have to take his foot off the gas a little with a less reliable partner. Of course, the team has options in replacing Anderson, and a solid player will take his spot, but it will be very difficult to find someone who performs the role at a similar level.
Similar to my discussion about replacing Alex Edler when he went down with an injury in December, the Kings have two options to replace Anderson. Either look within — the most likely option — or look to the trade market. The latter is only really viable if Anderson is out long-term, as there’d be no point in acquiring a player for a few games. With internal replacements being the most likely route, here are the team’s options.
The most likely replacement for Anderson is Jacob Moverare. He replaced Anderson about a month ago against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings and is likely the front runner to step in again. The 23-year-old, former fourth-round pick has just three NHL games to his name but has looked very comfortable in his limited NHL experience. Not only has he replaced Anderson before, but he also plays a very similar game. A shutdown defenseman with minimal offensive impact, Moverare would provide Doughty with a safety net, allowing him to still play his normal game. The comparison to Anderson runs so deep that The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman stated in an article before the season that when talking to people within the organization, Anderson’s name came up a lot when discussing Moverare.
“It’s tricky when it comes to making comparisons but the name Mikey Anderson came up in a recent discussion about Moverare — a steady defenseman who just gets the job done quietly and with little fuss.”From ‘Kings breakout candidates, Byfield or Turcotte in the top six, and Petersen’s next contract: Mailbag, part 1’ The Athletic, 8/6/21
I’m a big fan of Moverare, and he is one of the most underrated prospects in the team’s system, so it will be nice to see him get more game time if he’s utilized. His lack of offensive upside leaves me doubtful that he has a long-term future with the team, as I doubt he overtakes Anderson or Tobias Bjornfot on the left side, but seeing his continued development is still fun. While nothing is set in stone, my gut tells me that Moverare will play in place of Anderson, and I’d expect good results from the young Swede.
The other option is Jordan Spence. I’d be surprised to see him replace Anderson, but he was called up Wednesday morning and has been playing incredible hockey recently, making him an option. The issue with playing Spence is simply one of fit. Not only is he a natural right-sided defenseman, but he also plays a very dissimilar game to Anderson. He’s second in points amongst American Hockey League (AHL) defensemen and leads all rookie defensemen in scoring, so he’s a true offensive defenseman. He likes to jump up into the play and control the puck from the point, making him a poor partner for Doughty. He’s also still very young and undersized. For a team that struggles to clear the front of their net and can struggle with teams who forecheck heavily, adding a young, small defenseman seems counterproductive.
Spence started Wednesday’s practice with Moverare, as Doughty was doing individual work with assistant coach Marco Sturm, and I’d assume he’s replaced by Doughty in the above pairings for Thursday’s game. Spence has shattered everyone’s expectations this season and has a serious case to be the AHL’s rookie of the year. However, I doubt he gets into any games in the next week. Of course, I didn’t think he’d be this good in the AHL, and I’ve quickly learned to never doubt him.
As I said, it seems very unlikely that the Kings look to the trade market to replace Anderson unless he is out long-term. In that scenario, the Kings would have a few options on the open market. The obvious name would be Jakob Chychrun, a player who I have said numerous times recently is unlikely to be a King by the end of the trade deadline. However, if Anderson is out long-term, this could see the team aggressively pursue him, grabbing a player who could fill a hole now and would help the team in the future.
Another left-shot defenseman who’s currently on the market is Ben Chiarot, but I am not a fan of his, and I don’t think he’d be a good option. If the Kings have to make a trade, they should look at another Montreal Canadiens defenseman in Brett Kulak. A more like-for-like replacement for Anderson, he would be an ideal player to replace Anderson. Again, given the current information on Anderson, I doubt the Kings explore these options, but these are the two players to target if it comes to it.
Kings Losing a Key Player
The third injury to a key player the Kings have suffered, with Brendan Lemieux and Viktor Arvidsson also going down with injury recently, losing Anderson is devastating as well. He’s a true top-line shutdown defenseman that allows Doughty to be at his best. If the injury is short-term, the team can use someone like Moverare to hold them over, but if the injury is long-term, the Kings will have to explore trade options.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.