Lias Andersson
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

New York Rangers’ prospect Lias Andersson has seen limited action the last two seasons, and now it’s time to see what they have in him.

Dom Renna

It’s no secret: Lias Andersson has struggled at the NHL level since being taken seventh overall by the New York Rangers in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.

Throughout his short career, the now 20-year-old has yet to put together any consistency in his 42 career games and the numbers back it up.

In that span, Andersson’s scored just three goals (two in 2018-19) and five assists (four in 2018-19), while spending most of his time centering the bottom six most of the time. Clearly, it has not been an ideal start for a player taken that high in the draft, especially when fellow teammate Filip Chytil found success after being taken later in the first round.

No one is denying how Andersson still has some work to do, it would be foolish to say he doesn’t especially since this is only his first full season playing in North America after a small stint in 2017-18. Every hockey fan knows how the game is played differently overseas and there is a big learning curve for players who make the transition, just look at Pavel Buchnevich’s career path thus far. However, like Buchnevich, the Rangers need to start giving Andersson a legitimate chance at the NHL level.

When you look at Andersson’s short career over in North America, it’s really been a tale of two different players. He’s absolutely dominated the AHL level, scoring 34 points (11 goals and 23 assists) in just 61 games. He was also able to continue his success overseas playing for Sweden back in 2017-18. Where the dip starts is once he comes back over to the NHL level. For some reason, things just seem to change for him raising all kinds of question marks in such a short career.

To start 2018-19, the Rangers did the right thing by giving him a chance to play top line minutes down in Hartford when they knew he wouldn’t see them at the NHL level. It was disappointing, especially after he finished a very dominant preseason with a couple of goals in four games where he looked ready to take the next step. Even with the little confidence breaker, he still managed to produce down in Hartford earning another call-up following a Brett Howden injury.

Howden’s injury looked to be Andersson’s chance, but it turned out to be more of a short term issue and it led back to Andersson’s development taking a major hit. He averaged just over 10 minutes a night and occasionally would never see a shift in the third period. Eventually, the organization decided it was time for him to go back to Hartford and play more minutes, but once again he would find himself back in the NHL in a role that without a doubt has hindered his development.

While every player’s development has a different clock, you can’t help but wonder where Andersson would be entering 2019-20 if he was used in a larger role. It makes for this year to be a make or break year for him, especially with some of the Rangers top prospects getting set to come over along with a game-changing player they’ll receive via the second overall pick in the draft.

To start next year, no longer can Andersson be buried on the fourth line all game and seem forgotten on the bench. Instead, head coach David Quinn needs to learn what he has in Lias so the team can begin to pivot with their plans surrounding him if they aren’t pleased with his game. That’s really been the major problem for Andersson, especially when it comes to analyzing him because you see the flashes and potential he has. Whenever Andersson has been at his best, he’s done it playing in a pretty substantial role. The times he’s struggled, especially at the NHL level, he’s been limited.

If there was ever a time for the Blueshirts to give Andersson that expanded role, next year is perfect. As of right now, their centers entering next year are Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, Filip Chytil, Andersson and Howden. There is clearly room for Andersson to see more minutes down the middle while not taking away minutes from another center.

David Quinn has established a reputation of getting the most out of his younger players. We all saw last year how he got to Pavel Buchnevich, Chytil, Zibanejad and Chris Kreider and their games went to the next level, his next big project is figuring out the type of player Lias Andersson is. Is he the player the Rangers thought they were drafting? Or, will we be adding him to the list of swings and misses the Blueshirts have had picking in the top-10?

The only way to be able to tell any of this is if he starts to see the ice more. There’s simply no other way around it, don’t push back his development any further than they already have.

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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.