In three years with the OHL's London Knights, Josh Anderson played with some pretty good players.
Mitch Marner. Vladislav Namestnikov. Max Domi. Andreas Athanasiou. Olli Maatta. Bo Horvat. Chris Tierney. Nikita Zadorov. Scott Harrington.
Looking back, it's no surprise those teams made the Memorial Cup all three years that Anderson was in London, coming oh-so-close in Anderson's first year of 2012 when the Knights fell in overtime in the title game vs. Michael Chaput's Shawinigan team.
So not only did Anderson come from a winning pedigree and a culture of playing in big games, he also knew how to get the job done. In his last two years with London, Anderson combined for 50 goals and 50 assists while using his big body to wreak havoc.
But how would those skills translate to the NHL after the Blue Jackets made Anderson a fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft? This season began to answer that question.
What did we expect?
Frankly, who knew what to expect out of Josh Anderson this season?
In 18 career games, Anderson had scored just one goal with four assists. So what expectations could there have been?
It was known Anderson, listed at 6-3, 221 pounds, was a big body and wasn't afraid to throw it around. Someone who came somewhat late to hockey, Anderson had room to grow. And with 25 goals, 56 points and 184 penalty minutes in 110 AHL games, Anderson had begun to show the kind of game he would have at the pro level.
What did we get?
Let's just say if anyone expected Anderson to score 17 goals during the season, they deserve some sort of prize.
It's not that there were thoughts Anderson couldn't score. But still, 17 even-strength goals (and one more in the playoff series vs. Pittsburgh) is on the high end of what could have been expected in his initial full NHL campaign, a performance that seemingly pushed Anderson into the team's long-term plans and made him part of the team's core.
Anderson, of course, provided more than goal scoring on the team's fourth line, most often paired with Matt Calvert and William Karlsson. With his big body, Anderson brought a physical presence (he had 147 hits on the year), and he wasn't afraid to drop the gloves when necessary with five fights on the campaign.
He was used more often in defensive zone draw situations than offensive, and he was below 50 percent in both even-strength Corsi and Fenwick. But big-bodied physical presences who can score close to 20 goals per season don't grow on trees, and as a result, Anderson impressed in 2016-17.
Anderson's scoring touch was impressive throughout the season, but the moment that stands out from his season wasn't an act of putting points on the board.
Anderson dropped the gloves against Minnesota heavyweight Chris Stewart in the teams' battle on New Year's Eve. It was one of the biggest games of the year, with each team riding a long winning streak, and Anderson and linemate Calvert each fought in short order.
The bouts energized the Blue Jackets, with head coach John Tortorella saying the team's bench felt "10 feet tall" after the fights. And Columbus went on to capture the game as part of the squad's 16-game winning streak.
According to CapFriendly.com, Anderson had a cap hit of $678,333 this past season while completing his entry-level contract. He is now a restricted free agent.