Standing 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds, 22-year-old Josh Anderson doesn’t easily go unnoticed.
That is becoming more and more true as he and the Lake Erie Monsters continue their quest for the franchise’s first-ever Calder Cup, a quest that is in good shape after a 4-1 win in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
“When you’re a guy that’s (Anderson’s) size and has the ability to play physical like he does and you have the puck as much as he does, teams have to pay attention to him,” Monsters head coach Jared Bednar told BlueJackets.com.
“He wouldn’t be a fun guy to play against on most nights when he’s playing the way he can,” Bednar said.
For Anderson, playing the way he can this season has meant becoming a force with and without the puck. The forward played 58 regular season games with Lake Erie and was second on the team in goals (19) and primary points per game (.552) in all situations according to ahl.prospect-stats.com.
He was also a top performer at even strength ranking second among all Monsters in total primary points (23) and primary points per game (.397).
It’s no wonder that Bednar counts on the Burlington, Ontario native as one of the team’s leaders.
“Some of the biggest things are (Anderson’s) play away from the puck and commitment to defend,” Bednar said. “He can set the tone for a game just based on his size and strength and skating ability – we need him to be one of the guys that’s driving the bus.”
And the Monsters team has been able to drive through the five steps that the organization laid out as their process for attacking the postseason. First, get in the playoffs, then tackle each round – one step at a time.
With each playoff game, Anderson has remained a factor. He earned a point in eight of the 13 games the Monsters have played prior to Wednesday, including the primary assist on the double overtime Lukas Sedlak game winner that completed a sweep of the Ontario Reign and sent the Monsters to the Calder Cup Finals.
Overall in the post season, Anderson’s point per game rate jumped from his regular season tally of .672 to .92. That’s good enough for second on the team. And his seven goals, five of which came at even strength, are good for third overall in AHL playoff goal scoring.
Add in his assist total (two primary, three secondary) and it’s good enough for second among Lake Erie players and sixth in the league as far as total playoff points.
This offensive burst is something Anderson, who played in two Memorial Cup tournaments with the London Knights, credits to being ready for the demands of postseason play.
“It’s the best time of the year to play good hockey,” Anderson said. “You get the feeling going into the playoffs where you want to bring it every time you step on the ice.”
Other teams may have tried to focus on stopping Anderson, but, the player Bednar referred to as a “difference maker” continues to play to his strengths and confound opponents.
“He can get (to the puck) quick, he’s a long guy and it’s difficult to outskate him,” Bednar said. “He’s got a little swagger and confidence to his game and that’s good for him.
“He can get under the skin of the opposing team a little bit, especially when things are going good for him, because he has the ability to hurt you offensively. That’s what makes him a good player.”
And while Anderson says he welcomes the challenge among his teammates to each bring their best and put up points, at the end of the day, individual accomplishments are not the focus. He says some of the older guys on the team have shared how long it’s taken to get this deep into the post season.
“It’s all about getting the Cup,” Anderson said. “We have one goal and that’s to win the Calder Cup, so we have to bring our game every night and go from there.”
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