~Written by Jamie Neugebauer (@Neugsie on twitter)
Whether or not Notre Dame Hound Kevin Anderson’s commitment to Princeton University raised eyebrows around the hockey world, there was no such surprise in Wilcox.
With academic averages in the high 90s and a bright start to his Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League career with the Hounds Junior A, that Kevin was bound for a top-class Division I NCAA program felt all-but-inevitable.
“Kevin is first and foremost an excellent person,” said Notre Dame head coach and general manager Brett Pilkington.
“He’s an excellent student in school, a great student of the game, and comes from a great family; so when you have all those things and the work ethic to match, you can see how he’s on the path that he is.”
A speedy and skillful 5-foot-11, 172-pound forward, Anderson led his Hounds AAAs in assists and points among forwards in his final year of Under-18 back in 19-20 and scored a goal in each of his two call-up games for the SJHL Hounds.
It was quickly clear to Pilkington that Anderson could not only jump right in and be a big part of his team but immediately show enough to catch the eyes of the scouts from down south.
While many came calling on the 2003-born Regina native, it was prestigious Princeton that was ultimately deemed the perfect fit.
“For me, it was the best mix between academics and hockey,” Anderson said.
“Obviously, they have amazing academics, that’s what they’re known for, but they also have a really good hockey program, and I think I can make an impact there. Overall, Princeton was the best deal for me and it just worked out best to go there.”
Recognition of Anderson’s big potential did not take time to foster upon his arrival at the campus of the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame as a Grade 9 student in 2017, and his work earned him draft spots with the Western Hockey League’s Kootenay (now Winnipeg) ICE, and the United States Hockey League’s Green Bay Gamblers.
Yet entrenched as an important leader on campus, in the dorms, and on his various teams, Kevin’s heart remained in Wilcox.
“I am a completely different person for having gone to Notre Dame, and in the best way,” Anderson said.
“It was instilled in me there the importance of finding a balance between academics and hockey, and I am really thankful for having been able to attend ND. I just know it’s preparing me well for University, the way everything is accessible, and I don’t think I could have been prepared better anywhere else. They preach the balance of everything, and I think I have achieved that in my four years, and I look forward to carrying those ideas on to Princeton.”
From his success on the ice and work ethic off it, Kevin earned a spot on Team Saskatchewan’s entry into the 2019 Canada Winter Games and played a regular shift alongside sure-fire National Hockey League prospects like Cole Sillinger, Nolan Allan, and Blake Swetlikoff.
With all these plaudits and opportunities pouring in, the offers to play in various junior leagues around North America followed; but Kevin was certain that the SJHL was the league for him.
“I think the SJHL is definitely a physical league,” he said, “and it has definitely helped me build on the mental side, the preparation and awareness side.
“It’s a really fast league, it’s obviously way faster than (U18), so it’s a big jump from there, and that element will definitely help me make the jump to the NCAA. Overall, I think it was my first choice because it’s close to home, and it was good to graduate school close to home. It is a physical league, but that only makes you better.”
Although his first foray as a full-time Junior A Hound was cut short due to the pandemic, Anderson has made it clear that he enjoys playing under Brett and his assistant Mitch Paradis, and it is expected that he will take a large leadership role with the club whenever the 2021-2022 campaign begins.
“It’s amazing to have a kid like that back for another year,” said Pilkington, “but now the pressure falls on our shoulders and the group we bring in to prepare to send Kevin to Princeton the year after the right way.
“We have a lot of hard work ahead of us,” he said, “and it starts with recruitment, to put the right pieces in place to help not only Kevin but the whole group to develop, and give every individual in our room the opportunity that Kevin will have the year after.”
Kevin committed on Dec. 31, 2020.