Lias Andersson — the seventh pick in the NHL Draft — has the chance to impact the New York Rangers on day one.
This offseason was expected to be a year of change for the New York Rangers. Their core led the team to the postseason time and time again but was never able to capture the organization’s first Stanley Cup since 1994.
The decision was never more evident than when GM Jeff Gorton made a draft day deal with the Arizona Coyotes, trading first line center and alternate captain Derek Stepan and backup goaltender Antii Raanta for young defenseman Anthony DeAngelo and the seven overall selection.
For the first time in five years, the Rangers had a first round draft pick. And with said pick, they selected center Lias Andersson.
The jury was out on the front office’s decision. Because Andersson was rated as a mid-first round selection, some believed it was a reach. Others thought he fits in seamlessly with the type of talent that the Rangers look for.
Either way, Andersson is their man — and he has a chance to impress right out of the gate.
The Swede native was never recognized as the most gifted amateur talent but was widely considered one of the most polished. Despite being just 18 years old, Andersson possesses a mature game that will help him become one of the first players in the 2017 Draft to play in an NHL game.
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It’s hard to imagine Andersson being a 60-point player. Hell, he may not even develop into a first line center, something one would expect when a player is drafted within the top 10 picks.
But his wealth of skills is what makes him such an enticing player.
“He can play left wing, right wing, center. He can play up the lineup or throughout the lineup. He can penalty kill, he can play on the power play. He reminds me of a lot in style and temperament of Chris Kunitz,” NHL Network’s Craig Button said after the pick. “Lias Andersson is really smart and he is a big time competitor who is weighty and doesn’t get pushed out of the important areas.”
The praise didn’t stop with Button. TSN’s Bob McKenzie stated, “the Rangers believe that this is a kid that you can win with, that he has those traits that make him special in that regard even though he is not an elite offensive player” and “If he does sign with the Rangers he could be a guy that is able to compete.”
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This bodes well for a Rangers team that is light up the middle, a position where Andersson — despite his versatility — is expected to play on a nightly basis.
Projected first line center Mika Zibanejad remains a restricted free agent, although he’s expected to strike a deal with the team. Although he possesses a ton of upside, he’s yet to put it all together in his brief NHL career. Kevin Hayes has proved to be a capable offensive weapon but his shortcomings on defense and on the faceoff dot leave a lot to be desired. David Desharnais signed with the Blueshirts this offseason but expects to be a bottom six center.
The Rangers have names like Cristoval Nieves and Vinni Lettieri in the system and trades are still possible. But if Gorton, Alain Vigneault and the rest of the Rangers’ brass want to see what they have, putting Andersson on the Opening Night roster is the way to go.
He’ll bring a steady presence to both ends of the ice to either the third or fourth line. His vision will help set up opportunities for his linemates and his knack for playing around the net will create additional scoring chances. Andersson enjoys getting his sweater dirty, is a menace on the forecheck and his poise and smarts will help make his transition to Broadway that much easier.
Step one has been completed — on July 13, the Rangers and Andersson agreed to an entry level deal.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) July 13, 2017
The next step is for Andersson to impress his new coaching staff and earn a spot on the roster.