Calgary has had a very solid defence core for the last couple seasons, headlined by the likes of Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton. But with two of its top three right-handed defencemen in Dennis Wideman and Deryk Engelland likely on their way out after the season, Calgary will need to find itself some new players to for its blue line.
A great fit for the Flames’ roster next year would be 2015 second-round prospect Rasmus Andersson. Andersson is a well-rounded defender currently playing with Calgary’s AHL affiliate Stockton, and could provide more stability to Calgary’s defence.
He’s Shown Consistency
To put up points in Junior is one thing, but to do it at a professional level is something else. Often enough Junior talents will be placed in the minors after their run in the CHL, but will never really end up adjusting. The same can’t be said for Rasmus Andersson.
In the OHL with the Barrie Colts, he was one of the league’s top defenders, both on the offensive and defensive side of the game. In his two years with the Colts, Andersson put up 124 points in 131 games and finished with an incredible plus/minus rating of plus-48.
Now in his first AHL season, Andersson has arguably been Stockton’s number one defenceman. In 26 games, Andersson has two goals and 15 assists, making him the leading defensive scorer and giving him the most assists on the team. Andersson also sits second on the team in plus-minus with a plus-14 rating, only behind Tyler Wotherspoon, who was recently recalled by Calgary. The Flames defence core may be solid but often lacks consistency, so Andersson would be a welcome addition.
Playing a Top-Four Role
In all likelihood, both Wideman and Engelland will be out of Calgary when their contracts expire at the end of the season. That means the Flames will need to fill a top-four spot next year, as well as add a third-pair defenceman. Though Andersson could fill a spot on the third pair, he’d be of more use to the Flames playing in a second-pair role with TJ Brodie as a partner.
At 6-foot-one and 214 pounds, Andersson would fit the position well, and though he can still play a shutdown role, his offensive style would be much better suited to a second pairing. This would leave the Flames with two really solid right-handed defencemen between Andersson and Hamilton to play with Giordano and Brodie. Not only does this mean the Flames have a suitable replacement for Wideman, it means they’ll also save around $3.5 million in cap space for next season, thanks to Andersson’s entry-level deal.
It wouldn’t be a bad move for the Flames to throw Andersson into a few NHL games this season to test the waters as well, depending on how Calgary’s season concludes. But even if Andersson doesn’t get his first NHL game until next season, Engelland leaving does give the Flames a chance to start Andersson in a smaller role before pushing him up to a top-four position.
Though he’s only been out of Junior for one season, Andersson has already shown he can excel in a professional league. With open spots on the Flames defence next season, it would be a smart move for Calgary to bring Andersson up for his first season in the NHL.
Ben is a journalism student at Ryerson University and covers the Toronto Maple Leafs.