New York Rangers
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Lias Andersson has made his way back to the NHL with the New York Rangers, but is the 20-year-old actually here to stay for good?

Dom Renna

When Brett Howden went down with an injury in the New York Rangers 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres Sunday night, all eyes turned to the staus 20-year-old, Lias Andersson.

Fans hoped to see Andersson crack the roster fresh out of training camp after Andersson scored two goals and won 57 percent of the faceoffs he took. But, the coaching staff felt the former number seventh overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft was not going to see any enough action at the NHL level. As a result, they decided to keep Howden and give Andersson more time to develop in Hartford.

Andersson took the demotion and showed the Rangers just how hard of a worker he is. In 14 games with the Wolf Pack, he averaged just under a point a game scoring 12 points (4-8-12) and continued his steady all-around game. Now with Howden out and Boo Nieves not ready to make his way back into the Blueshirts’ lineup, Andersson is getting his chance.

Even though Andersson is here now, there are multiple questions that arise in determining how this will shape the rest of the roster moving forward. One of those questions is whether or not he is here to stay?

The answer to that question is not as simple as it may seem, considering there are so many moving parts. The first answer that needs to be addressed is how serious is Howden’s injury? If the injury keeps him out long-term, Andersson without a doubt will be the man taking his place. But, if Howden is only out on a short-term basis, like the team hopes he is, that opens up some other moving parts.

Addressing the status of Filip Chytil will have to be brought up, considering he has been buried on the fourth line over the last week after head coach David Quinn’s line changes last Monday. Chytil saw just under 10 minutes of ice time against Buffalo and has not cracked the minute mark since he saw 16:58 of ice time against Florida Oct. 23. Perhaps Quinn and general manager Jeff Gorton feel it would be better for Chytil to see some time in Hartford and go with Howden and Andersson at the NHL level. But, by doing that you have to wonder if you are hindering Chytil’s growth, and you already lost out on his contract slide since he has appeared in 14 games this season.

What also is not being talked about, is the contract status of Kevin Hayes. The Rangers have made it public that they would like to retain Hayes, and Hayes has said he does not want to leave New York. But, as the young season has unfolded, teams have already begun to express interest in Hayes.

Now, this is pure speculation here, but perhaps the Rangers are working on a deal involving Hayes. Moving him opens up another spot at center and gives Andersson, Howden, and Chytil a spot on the NHL roster. Whether or not all three are at center, that would have to be determined when and if a trade is made.

The idea of Hayes being traded this early in the season is not as crazy as it sounds, but it is probably not likely. Teams are more likely to be a bit more desperate for a player at the trade deadline and would give up more in a package. It would be foolish for the Rangers to trade Hayes now for a lesser package.

One player who has seem to become forgotten on the Rangers depth chart at center is Boo Nieves. He is getting closer to returning to the Blueshirts’ lineup after suffering a concussion in the team’s first preseason game of 2018-19. He had his time with the Blueshirts cut short a season ago as Alain Vigneault preferred to go with the veteran Peter Holland as the team’s fourth line center. Even after the moves at the deadline, he had a hard time cracking the Blueshirt’s lineup. But, if 2017-18 taught us anything about Nieves, it was that he is a viable option as a fourth line center.

Perhaps the recall of Andersson really just is temporary, and once Howden returns from his injury Andersson will be heading back to Hartford. But one thing is for sure, Andersson seems to be ready to make an impact in the NHL and the Rangers cannot keep wasting his talent in Hartford much longer.

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Dominick is a graduate of Canisius College. He has covered the Rangers for the last seven seasons and the Yankees for the last four.