Lias Andersson told John Davidson, the president of the New York Rangers, that he will not participate in the team’s training camp ahead of the restart of the NHL season. Earlier in the season, he refused to continue playing for the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL and New York decided to loan him to HV71 Jonkoping in Sweden.
Andersson’s decision should not hurt the Rangers too much this season but given the team’s lack of depth at forward, he would have had a good chance to make their roster.
“He told me he wants to be a New York Ranger,” Davidson told Larry Brooks of the New York Post. (from ‘Lias Andersson won’t join Rangers camp when NHL return,’ New York Post, 06/18/2020) “We’ll continue to hold his rights and down the road we’ll have discussions about where it’s best for Lias to play next season.”
For the Rangers
The Blueshirts are one of the youngest teams in the NHL, and are quickly transitioning from rebuilding to contending. They have an impressive core of young defensemen and two excellent lines (one led by Mika Zibanejad and the other by Artemi Panarin) but their other two lines have been a work in progress. The leading scorers among Ranger forwards not on a line with Zibanejad or Panarin, are Kaapo Kakko and Filip Chytil, who both have 23 points. In addition to that, Jesper Fast and Greg McKegg will be unrestricted free agents this offseason and could sign with another team.
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This means that young forwards, including Andersson, should have a decent shot at making New York’s opening day roster next season. An impressive training camp could certainly earn Andersson another opportunity with the Blueshirts. That is, if Andersson decides to return to the organization.
Andersson made it clear he was not happy with the organization and was not satisfied playing on the team’s fourth line or for the Wolf Pack. He played much better during his brief stint with HV71 Jonkoping before the coronavirus pandemic forced remaining games to be cancelled. The Rangers will likely allow him to continue to play there if he doesn’t play in New York or get traded.
Andersson and Fast
While the Rangers still hold Andersson’s rights, if he chooses not to return to North America, the team would likely loan him to HV71 Jonkoping again. He has just three goals and six assists in 66 games with New York in three seasons. He has 15 goals and 24 assists but is minus-33 in 74 games with the Wolf Pack. He has fared better since returning to Sweden, where he has seven goals and five assists in 15 games.
Jesper Fast also played for HV71 Jonkoping before he developed into an excellent defensive forward for the Blueshirts. He finished with 18 goals and 17 assists in 47 games with them during the 2012-13 season. He also had a goal and four assists in five playoff games. At the time, he was 21, the same age Andersson is now.
Andersson was on a similar scoring pace with Fast before the season was suspended. However, Fast was known for his defensive skills rather than his offensive ones and did not complain about beginning his NHL career playing on New York’s fourth line. Perhaps that is because Fast was the 157th overall pick of the 2010 NHL Draft, while Andersson was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.
Andersson has not impressed the Rangers with any one aspect of his game so far. He does not have an elite shot or playmaking skills. He is not a great skater. He has made some mistakes defensively early in his career although that’s normal for such a young player.
Still, Andersson has decent size and has shown he is not afraid to block shots and battle for positioning in front of the net. If he is willing to play on the Rangers’ third or fourth line and kill penalties early in his career, he can secure a spot on the roster.
He could work his way into a bigger role over time, similarly to the way Fast has. Ryan Callahan also had a similar career path with the Blueshirts. He began playing on the team’s fourth line and killing penalties but after a few years earned a spot on the team’s top line and power-play unit. If everything goes as Andersson and the Rangers hope it will, he could have a similar rise.
Despite not returning to New York this season, Andersson said he wants to be a Ranger. Thus far, he has not proven that, but if he still feels that way next season, he will have one more opportunity to do so.