Josh Anderson had quite the debut for the Habs with a pair of goals. What type of output should they be expecting from him in his first season in Montreal?
After a breakout season the year before, Anderson looked as if he was starting to realize his potential which would make him an impact top-six power forward for years to come. That all changed in a hurry and not in a good way.
While he was still shooting at a reasonable clip (2.42 shots per game compared to 2.8 the year before), his goal production absolutely cratered. He scored a grand total of one goal and while it is fair to attribute his shoulder issues as part of the reason for that, someone logging more than 16 minutes a night should have been able to score more than once in 26 games regardless.
Speaking of those shoulder troubles, Anderson wound up undergoing surgery in December. While it was hoped that he’d be able to return late in the year (he was in trade speculation leading up to the deadline), the pandemic-fueled shutdown put an end to that. What was more notable is that even when play resumed in August, he still hadn’t been cleared to return which was more than a little puzzling. Given that the playoffs are conducive to his style of play, that certainly had to sting the Blue Jackets a little bit.
Season Stats: 26 GP, 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points, -8 rating, 17 PIMS, 0 PPG, 0 GWG, 63 shots, 16:04 ATOI, 47.4 CF%
4 Year Averages
(2019-20’s stats were extrapolated to an 82-game rate. Anderson has only been a full-time NHL player for four seasons so using our usual sample of five years would skew the numbers too much.)
Heading into training camp, where Anderson would play was one of the more interesting debates. Does he fit better with Nick Suzuki and Jonathan Drouin or would a combination of Anderson and Jesperi Kotkaniemi make the most sense? For now, the first option was chosen and one game in, it looks like a good one but it was just one game and things can change. With Brendan Gallagher likely not moving off that top line, it’s safe to say that Anderson’s role will be a middle-six winger.
As a player that’s willing to get to the dirty areas around the net, Anderson has been suggested as someone that could greatly help Montreal’s power play. However, the numbers tell a different tale as he has all of four goals with the man advantage in his career out of 65 heading into the season. It’s not as if he has a bunch of assists at 5-on-4 either as his career total is all of seven. It’s certainly possible that a new team and new scheme helps him become a bigger factor on the power play but it would be tough to count on that.
Anderson has killed penalties with some regularity over the past couple of years so it’s interesting that he doesn’t seem to be under much consideration for that role with the Habs. If that changes, his ATOI could creep up closer to the 17 to 18-minute mark which would have him close to the top among Montreal forwards; even without top-line minutes, he should still have a sizable impact.
As good as his first game was, things aren’t going to go anywhere near that well for him this season. Even matching his career-best goal per game mark (0.329) may be a stretch given the clear intention to try to roll three somewhat balanced scoring lines. If his current line plays up to its potential, he could come close to that mark but it must be noted that all three players have question marks – Anderson for his shoulder, Suzuki for his inexperience and larger role, and Drouin for, well, being Drouin where his shift-to-shift interest level can vary from engaged to non-existent.
I can see Anderson having a nice rebound year and coming somewhat close to the per-game numbers from his career year in 2018-19 but from a pure counting stat perspective, that’s not the best of fantasy profiles. He gets a small boost for leagues that value goals over assists but that’s about it.
However, Anderson is much more valuable in pools that count hits. He has been right at the 2.6 per game mark the last two years and now he comes to a team that will have 28 games in front of Bell Centre statisticians that typically count any minor contact as a hit. Averaging three per game isn’t out of the question and that raises his floor both in points-based and head-to-head leagues.
I won’t bother getting into where he should go in fantasy drafts as most of those have already happened by this time. (This piece is more about simply getting a prediction in than anything else.)