The 2018-19 season came to an abrupt end after a memorable playoff run. Columbus Blue Jackets fans on the outside were left asking questions about who would stay and who would go. However, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen remained steadfast when it came to not shying away from the high expectations and finding answers from within.
"Josh Anderson, what a beast. And he's just going to keep getting better," Kekalainen said. "He's a force. There's no reason why he shouldn't get better for next year. He scored 27 goals, I think, this year in the regular season and you'd better be looking when he's coming to forecheck.
"He's going to get stronger. He's going to get faster. There are a lot of exciting things going on with our team and I'm not worried about the UFAs. I'm not.”
Anderson has steadily improved over the last three years in Columbus, backing up the claims of his GM.
On paper it makes sense for Anderson, who just turned 25 last week, to continue his upper trajectory and become a bonafide top-six winger in the league. He seemed aware of the heightened role he'll play for the club when October rolls around in his exit interview.
"I’ve been in this league now for three years…(I) definitely got a lot of confidence and know what type of player I am and what I can be," Anderson said. "It’s gonna come in the summer—work hard and, and get back at it, and you know have a great year next year.”
Anderson's 6-foot-3 frame combined with a burst of speed in the neutral zone makes for a physical specimen that's hard to miss. The measurable qualities are undeniable, but it would be ignorant to praise Anderson without mentioning his ability to kill penalties.
The Blue Jackets were tied for first in the National Hockey League last season on the penalty kill, allowing opponents to score on only 15% of their power-play opportunities.
The penalty-killing prowess seeped right into the postseason, as Anderson scored a shorthanded goal in Game 1 to tie the score up at 3-3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was an iconic goal that led to an eventual victory and series sweep, but also was the one and only time Anderson found the back of the net in his 10 playoff appearances during 2019.
A shoulder injury Anderson suffered in Game 2 of the second-round series won't require surgery, but limited his physical play until the Jackets were ultimately eliminated.
"You gotta battle through injuries at some point during the year, and —it’s unfortunate that it happened you know early on in the series," Anderson said. "Obviously…that’s a big part of my game is, is being physical. I tried to be as physical as I could."
Anderson's presence on the ice was felt throughout the postseason, but his scoring was underwhelming. After a goal and an assist in the aforementioned game against the Bolts, Anderson only recorded one assist in his last nine outings.
Anderson knows there's plenty of room for improvement and tweaks to his play that can help him take the next step.
"I’m definitely gonna be watching a little bit more video in the summer of this season," Anderson said. "I didn’t do enough of that over the previous years, but I think that’s only gonna help me be a better player. "See what I have to work on and, and maybe holding onto pucks a little bit longer and, and using the body that I have to get around guys."