Lias Andersson was expected to do big things for the New York Rangers in 2018-19, now he finds himself heading back to Hartford.
This season was supposed to be the year Lias Andersson made his initial mark on the New York Rangers. It was supposed to be his time to prove the Rangers made the right decision to select him as a top-10 pick in the NHL Entry Draft. In the preseason he did just that but, now he finds himself back in the AHL.
Now while there is nothing wrong with a 20-year-old seeing time in the AHL, how he got to this point is what needs to be questioned. After putting up an impressive training camp, the team decided Brett Howden was the better option for the third line center spot and sent Andersson to Hartford. The reasoning for sending him to Hartford was simple, they did not want him to play fourth line minutes in the NHL.
Andersson would go down there and absolutely dominate the competition playing top-six minutes and would eventually earn an early season call-up following an injury to Howden. The problem for Andersson was that Howden only missed a game after it looked like it would be a lengthy absence. So the logical move would have been to send Andersson back to Hartford since he would be doing what the coaching staff did not want from the start of the season, play fourth line minutes.
Well if you thought that, you were wrong as the team kept Andersson up for 21 games burning his contract slide which would have pushed his entry-level deal back a one more year if he played in under 10 games. Still, that would not be a problem if the 20-year-old saw was given a legitimate chance to see the ice.
If the plan all along was to let Andersson sit and rot on the fourth line, you have to ask what took so long for them to call up Boo Nieves? We already know what Nieves is, a legitimate NHL fourth line center who would have been better served seeing the time Andersson did. Yes, Nieves was recovering from a preseason injury but, there were other options in Hartford who could have taken Andersson’s spot as well. Vinni Lettieri has been up and down a few times this season, while the team looked at Tim Gettinger, Steven Fogarty, and Matt Beleskey. All better options than letting a 20-year-old top prospect ride the bench.
While Andersson deserves some of the blame here, the majority of the blame has to fall on Quinn, general manager Jeff Gorton, and the rest of the front office who felt it was the right decision to keep the struggling Andersson in the NHL. We’ve seen the type of player Andersson has the potential to be, and while he might not be ready right now, his development this season was mismanaged greatly.
To me it's simple, #NYR botched it with the way they handled him. Said in training camp they didn't want him playing 4th line minutes in the NHL and that's what ultimately ended up happening. Then they end up waisting an entire year on his deal, this on them not the player. https://t.co/jGWeDVp5Q8
— Dom Renna (@drennaESNY) December 28, 2018
Andersson’s development this season has to be a bit concerning considering who the man behind the bench is. The Rangers brought Quinn because he had the ability to connect and develop young players compared to Alain Vigneault who favored the veteran player. While Quinn has done a wonderful job with the likes of Filip Chytil, Neal Pionk, Chris Kreider, and Kevin Hayes, you have to feel he let the ball slip when it comes to Andersson.
Talking to Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post following a 3-2 loss to the Red Wings where Quinn benched Andersson, Chytil, and Lettieri, Quinn had this to say.
“Not the minutes I want them to play, but we’ll get there.”
This is the problem, Quinn runs the bench and decides who sees the ice time they get. If he felt those three did not get the ice time he wanted to give them, it is on him change that. The following night against Columbus, Quinn was a man of his word and Andersson saw 15:22 on the ice, which is the third most amount of ice time he’s seen in a game this season and five minutes higher than his season average. But that did not change anything over the grand scheme of things.
Lias Andersson has shown the talent and that he has the ability to become a legitimate player in the NHL. While he might not be an impact star, there is no question that the Rangers managed his development poorly this season. Fans are hoping it doesn’t ruin his development period and that they won’t have to refer to him as another Dylan McIlrath.