First-round pick Lias Andersson has a chance to make his NHL debut with the New York Rangers during the playoffs. If he’s ready, Andersson would hope to follow in the footsteps of Chris Kreider who burst on to the scene in 2012.
When the New York Rangers selected Lias Andersson with the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, they did so planning to give him a chance to win a job with the team out of training camp. Much to the dismay of the Garden faithful, the young Swede failed to make the team and was sent back to Sweden to play another season with Frolunda.
Andersson, who is part of general manager Jeff Gorton’s on-the-fly rebuild, has responded well to a return to his homeland, producing seven goals and 14 points in 22 games with his club team. He has been dominant in the World Junior Championships (WJC) as well, producing six goals and seven points in six games, and being named one of Sweden’s top three players.
One of the two first-round picks that the Rangers made this season (the other being Filip Chytil), Andersson has a chance to make his Rangers debut in the playoffs, just like Chris Kreider did in 2012. And how great was the young bull circa the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs?
No regular season experience. No NHL experience in the least. Yet 20-year-old Kreider seemed to be on a mission, producing memorable moments with the Rangers en route to the sixth game fo the eastern conference final.
The Swedish Hockey League (SHL) regular season ends in March, and the playoffs end in the middle of April (Apr. 14 last season). This perfectly lines Andersson up to come across the ocean for the playoffs, an area he has the potential to experience immediate success.
The biggest similarity between Andersson’s and Kreider’s situations are that, like Kreider, Andersson will have been playing hockey right before joining the Rangers. Kreider played with Boston College right before joining the Rangers, while Andersson would be playing with Frolunda, who currently sit in a playoff spot in the SHL.
Kreider had a very good playoff debut, producing five goals and seven points in 18 playoff games. While it’s very difficult to project how a player will respond to a playoff atmosphere, Andersson’s WJC numbers are similar to Kreider’s in his final tournament, in which he had four goals and six points in six games.
Kreider had veteran players in the locker room such as Brad Richards, Henrik Lundqvist, Marc Staal, Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi to show him the ropes. Andersson will have the same, with compatriot Lundqvist, as well as Staal, still on the roster. He’ll also have Ryan McDonagh, Mats Zuccarello, and Kreider himself to show him how to handle playoff hockey.
The biggest detriment to Andersson’s chances of making a playoff debut is roster space. Kreider replaced John Scott in the lineup, who wasn’t a massive loss for the team. Scott was an enforcer when he played, which is a role that many coaches don’t like to use a roster spot on anymore. However, it isn’t clear who Andersson would replace.
The only players that Andersson could conceivably replace, barring an injury (such as the unlikely event that Kreider’s blood clot sidelines him until the playoffs), would be Boo Nieves and Paul Carey. While neither are top-tier players, both are solid and have developed good chemistry with one another. It would be difficult to justify removing either of them for a player making his NHL debut.
However, should Andersson find his way into the lineup come playoff time, he shouldn’t be too lost. He’s showing the same signs Kreider did before his successful playoff debut.
Andersson will be a very good player when he makes the transition to North America and could get a chance to show that on the biggest stage in the NHL.