Rangers young gun needs to shine next season

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When the Rangers brain trust, led by GM Jeff Gorton, announced Lias Andersson as the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, there were many in Rangerstown who questioned the selection, including yours truly. But now that Andersson has been with the Rangers organization for two seasons, the moment has come to ask whether it is time for the Rangers to scrutinize what they have in the young Swede.

Andersson’s Ceiling

The first thing to analyze here is what the ceiling is for the 20-year-old forward. To me, Lias is the prototypical third line center. He plays a 200-foot game, with his defensive abilities being the strongest tool in his arsenal. His offensive game is still developing, but I don’t believe it’ll get to the point where he is challenging for a top-six role.

Fighting For A Spot

Another thing to consider is whether or not Andersson will remain at center. Filip Chytil, who was drafted as a center just 14 picks after Andersson, was moved out to the wing and had himself a solid rookie campaign. In addition, with Ryan Strome, Boo Nieves, and Vlad Namestnikov all under contract for next season, along with fellow sophomore Brett Howden, moving Andersson out to the wing may not be the worst idea.

It may not be fair, but let’s compare Andersson to his fellow rookies from last season: Filip Chytil and Brett Howden. All three players were drafted at the center position, but Chytil was pushed out to the wing by head coach David Quinn.

Howden, who missed a good portion of the season with injuries, registered 23 points (6G, 17A) in the first 66 games of his NHL career. Chytil missed seven games in his first full campaign while also registering 23 points (11G, 12A) for the Blueshirts. Andersson was the only one of the trio to not make the team out of training camp, and registered six points (2G, 4A) in his 42 games with the Rangers. Andersson also had 20 points (6G, 14A) in 36 games with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack.

Is Andersson a bust? It’s very hard to call a 20-year-old with just 49 games of NHL experience a bust. But when a prospect is selected with the seventh overall pick in the draft, there are heightened expectations for the prospect. Andersson certainly has a good foundation to be a solid NHL forward. Could he be part of a trade package? Will he end up playing on the wing instead of in the middle? Could we see the offensive outburst that will calm the hearts of many in Rangerstown? There’s just so many questions around him.

Time will tell how Andersson fits into the plans of the current Rangers management, led by the aforementioned Gorton and new President of Hockey Operations John Davidson. But there is one thing I can say for sure; Andersson needs to come into camp determined to make a big impact. With an organization full of young talent, as well as a bevy of centers, this season could be make-or-break for the 20-year-old Andersson.

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