Are The Rangers Rushing Lias Andersson?
On the morning of June 23, 2017, New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton decided to pick up the phone and make a major move. It was draft day, and the Rangers brass felt a roster shake-up was needed. In the early hours of that day, Gorton sent $6.5 million American center Derek Stepan, and goaltender Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes for defenseman Tony DeAngelo, and perhaps the most important piece of that deal, the number seven overall pick in that night’s draft.
The Rangers held their own pick at 21st overall in which they took Czech center Filip Chytil. Chytil, from the early goings, has looked like a star in the making. When he was drafted, many knew Gorton took a big swing on him, but being that he was the youngest draft-eligible player; he still had plenty of room to grow. Chytil is only 19 years of age, and we can all see the talent level he displays. The Rangers and their fans are hopeful he is the next big thing to come through the system. When Gorton traded up to the seventh pick, they had one player in mind. He was a big, Swedish centerman with a ton of room to grow. Many, aside from Gorton, saw this player’s potential, and from recent reports, he was the main reason the Rangers made the big trade with Arizona. But when the Canucks took Calder Trophy front-runner Elias Pettersson, the Rangers decided to take Andersson. Many thought they went off the board with this pick, and should have taken the safer route with American ceneter Casey Mittelstadt. This is not a question aboutwhether or not the Rangers made the wrong choice in selecting the captain ofthe Swedish WJC team Andersson, but whether or not he was rushed.
Lias had a spectacular year in his first season as a Rangers draft pick. As mentioned before, he captained the Swedish WJC team to a silver medal; a medal in which he launched into the stands. Andersson also had a promising year in Hartford with the Wolf Pack at only 19 years old. When the season ended last year, and the continuing roster purge was occurring, many were looking forward to the Swede making the big club out of camp. To start the year in camp, Lias played extremely well. When all was said and done, as we know, he did not make the team and was sent back to Hartford. The glut at the center position was partially to blame for this and not the play of Andersson. Not to mention the play of center Brett Howden, who the Rangers acquired in the trade deadline deal with Tampa Bay. Andersson was sent back down to Hartford for a little over ten games where he was playing excellent. He was playing top line minutes, in all situations, and averaging almost a point-per-game. Nearly 15 games into the season he was called up to the big club, where he still is today. Even with Chytil being moved to the wing, the glut at center was still there, forcing Lias to play on the fourth line with players such as Cody McLeod and Matt Beleskey. Andersson has been stuck there for the entirety of his time with the Rangers with the exception of a couple of games where he managed to squeeze into the top-nine. My point is, was it really worth bringing Lias up, or, should he have cooked a little more in the AHL?
As mentioned before, Lias is currently stuck on the fourth line and is averaging just under 11 minutes a game. If Lias would have stayed in the AHL with the Pack, he would’ve been averaging at least five or six more minutes a night, playing on the top power play, and also killing penalties. Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets spent his entire 20-year-old season in the AHL with the Jets’ affiliate, we all know he turned out. I understand that playing for the big club is good for grooming a young player in understanding what it is like to play on the big stage, and being accustomed to the pro lifestyle; but the development of young players is the most important thing and the Rangers have been bad at it, to say the least, over the last number of years.
In my opinion, Andersson was not yet ready for the big club and should have spent the rest of the season in the AHL. He would have been playing big minutes, in all situations. I do think that he will project to a middle-six forward if he is groomed the right way. The Rangers have a lot to figure out down the middle starting with Kevin Hayes, and it would have been best for Lias to just sit tight with the Wolf Pack until that situation figured itself out. I am not writing him off as a bust because he is only 20 years old, but I am a little worried that Rangers brass could possibly mess up his development by rushing him.