The clock on Lias Andersson’s Rangers future is officially ticking
David Quinn gave Lias Andersson some encouragement prior to the Rangers loss to the Panthers last night. He told the 21 year old center that the organization believes in him. The motive was to help the Rangers 7th overall selection find confidence. Then Quinn gave him a season low 3:55 of ice time and made the situation even more perplexing.
When Andersson was selected in the 2017 draft, the pick was eye opening and considered a reach. The organization opted not to draft the more highly touted center Casey Mittelstadt in favor of the Swedish prospect. At the time, Alain Vigneault was still the head coach and Glen Sather was still the head man in charge. So it’s hard to blame David Quinn or John Davidson since they had no input on the pick.
Lias Andersson was such a surprise pick that even Bob Mckenzie noted, “It looks like the Rangers are going to go off the board here“. McKenzie had Andersson ranked thirteenth in that year’s NHL Entry Draft. While the Rangers left players like Mittelstadt, Michael Rasmussen, and Owen Tippett on the table, they felt that Andersson was the most NHL ready, even though his ceiling was most likely as a 3rd line center.
To date Mittelstadt is the only prospect mentioned above that is playing in the NHL and contributing. This season, the center has 7 points in 19 games while averaging 12 minutes of ice. He has 37 points in 102 NHL games.
The Elephant in the Room
Here we are with the questions mounting. As of today, almost every Rangers beat writer is talking about trading him or at least sending him back to the AHL. It’s hard to argue since it only appears that his development this season is taking a huge step in the wrong direction.
Last year Andersson played 42 games and amassed 6 points while averaging 10:43 of total ice time. In his 17 contests this season, he has just 1 point and is averaging only 9:33 per game. And eight times this season he has played around 8 minutes or less. For his young NHL career, Andersson has just 9 points in 66 games. We have officially reached a crossroads.
The question is no longer should the Rangers have taken the higher ranked prospect in Mittelstadt. It’s now what is the next step in Andersson’s development? The responsible and logical thing is to send him down to Hartford immediately and recall Boo Nieves in his place. Andersson must be given one more chance to elevate his game in the AHL playing 20 minutes a night. He needs to show he can produce and earn his way back. If he does, then the onus falls on Quinn to give him a prominent role and ice time.
A big decision looms
We are reaching a point of no return here with Lias Andersson. While that may sound ridiculous when talking about a 21 year old prospect, many are not seeing the forest from the tress. The Rangers have a promising center in Karl Henriksson that is opening eyes in the organization. With Mika Zibanejad and Filip Chytil already slotted as the top 2 centers, and Brett Howden locked in the bottom six, it is no longer a given that Andersson fits.
Even though many argue that Howden hasn’t done much more than Andersson this season, they forget the impression he made last year. Howden scored 23 points in 66 contests even though he was dealing with an injury. Simply put, he’s been a lot more recognizable and productive than Andersson. Plus, he was acquired to solidify the center position as a 3rd or 4th liner. That’s not what the organization was hoping for with Lias.
So now the team needs to decide if they are going to keep him or trade him at the deadline while he still has value. Yes, they need get him to Hartford, regain confidence, call him back and see what he can do. His future could be as a winger on the 3rd line, which would be great, but he needs to stand out. The Rangers needs to see something by the trade deadline, if they don’t it may be better asset management to add him as a sweetener in a deal to shed salary or acquire more picks.
The clock is now officially ticking.