Last season, the Calgary Flames defensive group was led by Norris Trophy winner and captain Mark Giordano, who had the best plus-minus rating in the NHL. Giordano, despite being 35-years-old, had a career-high season and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.
But, when Giordano eventually retires from hockey, it appears the Flames’ will be in good hands as 22-year-old defenseman Rasmus Andersson will be key to the team’s future.
So, who is Andersson and why does he have a lot of untapped potential?
Well, to start, he played his first full NHL season in 2018-19 and showed a lot of maturity and growth in his game. Andersson had two goals and 17 assists for 19 points in 79 games. And for being a third-pair defenseman, Andersson had an impressive plus-17 rating.
Andersson has developed a fast, skilled and productive game in a short period of time, while also having some size to him. I watched his hockey smarts quickly develop along with an incredible shot from the point – which Flames fans are going to hopefully see a lot more of in the upcoming season.
Andersson’s NHL Beginnings
Andersson was selected by the Flames in the second round (No. 53) of the 2015 NHL Draft. He is the son of Peter Andersson (from ‘Seeing red: Playoff visit an eye-opener for father of Flames’ Andersson,’ Calgary Sun, 04/13/2019), who was drafted by the New York Rangers in 1983. His brother, Calle (No. 119), was also drafted by the Rangers in 2012.
Andersson played two seasons in Sweden before landing in North America to play for the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League. He was drafted after finishing his first season in Barrie with 64 points in 67 games.
On Sept. 15, 2015, Andersson signed a three-year contract with the Flames. In 2016-17, he played a season with the Stockton Heat and had 39 points and was the team’s only representative at the 2018 AHL All-Star Game. On April 8, 2017, Andersson made his NHL debut with the Flames in their final game of the season against the San Jose Sharks.
Playing with Fire
Last season, the Flames showed a great deal of depth throughout the lineup. And I believe Andersson was a large contributor towards that.
The Flames had virtually their best regular season since 1988-89, the same year they won the Stanley Cup. The lineup seemed to work well together and Andersson was a contributing factor on the ice. He was an addition to the team that I wasn’t anticipating to see, but I’m glad he did. He’s everything an NHL team looks for in a young defenseman.
And throughout the season, the Flames began giving Andersson more opportunity. He played with several players throughout last season, like Oliver Kylington and Juusso Valimaki – eventually earning himself some time on the top line with Giordano and sometimes appearing on a powerplay unit.
Andersson had the fourth-highest amount of points on the Flames roster in their short 2018-19 Stanley Cup playoff run. He had three points in five games and only came behind Sam Bennett, Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund. Andersson’s three playoff points also came as a result of getting power-play time – his goal and two assists were both on the power play.
Some more time on the top pair with Giordano would do Andersson well. There’s a lot to learn from a consistent player and leader like Giordano. And with T.J. Brodie not being a consistent player, Andersson’s work ethic alone has earned him the opportunity to play alongside the Flames’ captain and play more ice time this upcoming season.
If Andersson plays more ice time (from ‘Andersson’s commitment to fitness leads to bigger role with Flames,’ Calgary Sun, 03/30/2019), he seems like the player who arises to the challenge and will push himself towards success.
Andersson’s Bright Future
This upcoming season for Andersson is looking very promising. Andersson worked hard last season and it didn’t go unnoticed. He’s really shaping up to be a top NHL defenseman.
As mentioned earlier, he’s only 22 and has a lot of time to develop. Last season, he grew by leaps and bounds and was fairly consistent all season. And naturally, Flames fans can expect the same and more as he will have another year of development playing alongside his fellow defensemen.
Andersson is currently getting paid $755,833 AAV and will become a restricted free agent next summer. In my opinion, he will be a very crucial signing for the Flames’ back end for both the near and distant future. Hopefully, negotiations will be able to go smoothly on both ends as Andersson has the potential of being a great NHL defenseman in the future.
As anticipation for the preseason and regular season loom, my excitement to see Andersson back in action is growing, too. I can’t wait to see this talented, young player perform.