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NHL contract helped Anderson get past draft snub

by Bill Hoppe
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- Not even a phone call from the San Jose Sharks and an invitation to their training camp completely could sooth J.P. Anderson's pain.
Twenty-one goalies were selected 21 goalies in the 2010 Entry Draft, but all 30 clubs passed on Anderson. The rejection stung him.
"It took me just a little while to get over (the Draft)," Anderson said prior to his 21-save performance Wednesday in the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors' 3-1 win against the Owen Sound Attack in the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
The victory clinched the Majors' spot in Friday's semifinal, where they'll play the winner of Thursday's tiebreaker game between the Kootenay Ice and Owen Sound.
Eleven months after the Draft, Anderson can laugh about the draft-weekend snub. He showed enough at his training-camp audition to earn a three-year, entry-level contact. He dressed for his first NHL game Jan. 22, serving as Antti Niemi's backup when Antero Niittymaki was injured.
"I wanted to get drafted," Anderson said. "I didn't, but I was able to sign. I didn't have to worry coming into this year about getting drafted or trying to impress scouts or things of that nature. I just wanted to come into games and focus on my game."
His focus was good enough for him to lead the Ontario Hockey League in the regular season with 38 wins, a 2.36 goals-against average and six shutouts. He was just as good in the OHL playoffs, going 15-5 with a 2.11 GAA, .920 save percentage and four shutouts.
After a 4-3 loss Saturday in the Memorial Cup opener, Anderson has ramped up his play, stopping 53 of the last 55 shots in his last two games. With 52 seconds left in the game Wednesday, his point-blank stop on center Andrew Shaw helped cement the win.
Center Rob Flick, a Blackhawks prospect, scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal with 1:36 left in the second period to break a 1-1 tie, and Justin Shugg, a 2010 Hurricanes draft pick, iced it with an empty-net goal in the game's final minute.
That was more than enough offense for Anderson, who is showing his brief recall could be the first of many NHL appearances.
"He's got a shot someday," said Al Jensen, NHL Central Scouting's goaltending scout.
The confidence Anderson gained during September's camp with the Sharks helped him turn into one of the OHL's best goaltenders this season.
"The stats speak for themselves," Majors coach Dave Cameron said.
This was Anderson's third season with the Majors, and he had split playing time the last two seasons with Chris Carrozzi. But with the Atlanta Thrashers prospect graduating to professional hockey this season, Anderson was the unquestioned No. 1 netminder, and played a personal-best 51 games.
"Going to San Jose's camp and gaining confidence there and having a good camp there and signing with them, I brought back some good confidence," Anderson said. "Dave gave me a lot of starts early on, and I kind of got in a bigger rhythm. Things just took off from there."
Anderson had started slowly his first two OHL seasons, but he rewarded Cameron's faith immediately, posting 16 wins by the end of November.
So what makes Anderson, who measures just 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, so effective?
"He's a calm, very well-positioned goalie," Jensen said. "(He's) smart. He's got strength in the crease. I like how he moves. He's very fluid, he's quick. I really like how when he gets scored on he doesn't let things bother him. He's just very, very poised. There's a lot about his game that I like."
Despite a slew of talents -- Jensen also noted Anderson possesses a strong glove hand and quick feet and pads -- his calm, quiet demeanor could be his greatest asset. Anderson rarely shows any emotion or gets rattled.
"He's very poised and he has lots of composure no matter what situation he's in -- a really tight game or if he makes that big save on the penalty kill," said Majors defenseman Stuart Percy, No. 53 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2011 Entry Draft. "Off the ice he's the same way. He's a really quiet, composed kid. He's just a great guy overall."
Jensen compared Anderson to St. Louis Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak, who's 5- 11 and 185 pounds.
"He plays a little bit like that," Jensen said. "He's calm. He plays his position and he always seems to be there. He gives himself a chance to stop the puck. Halak, that's how he plays. You look at him, you think, 'Oh, he's always there.'"
"He's a calm, very well-positioned goalie. (He's) smart. He's got strength in the crease. I like how he moves. He's very fluid, he's quick. I really like how when he gets scored on he doesn't let things bother him. He's just very, very poised. There's a lot about his game that I like." -- Al Jensen on J.P. Anderson
So if Anderson has transformed into one of junior hockey's elite talents and already has an NHL contract, how did he go undrafted?
"I'm really not sure on that at all," Jensen said. "I know watching J.P. for three years what type of goalie he is. Even from his underage year he was a guy I was going to keep an eye on.
"Last year we had him ranked as a possible prospect to watch for the Draft. … I thought at times he was inconsistent, but overall I still liked the way played. I just liked the way he covered the net."
So do the Sharks.
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