New York Rangers: Lias Andersson’s uncertain journey continues
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After starting this season in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack, Lias Andersson played extremely well in his New York Rangers 2018-2019 season debut.
Anytime a player is drafted in the top ten of the NHL draft high expectations are sure to follow. Of players drafted in this range, teams expect building block or foundational pieces that will be with the organization for ten or more years. When the New York Rangers originally selected Andersson with the seventh pick two years ago, it was a safe selection intended to fill a hole right away.
Of course, the Swede didn’t end up making the 2017-2018 Rangers except for a brief cup of coffee at the end of the season when things were already resolved. Andersson had an excellent preseason this year and looked ready to make the team in year two of his development. However, the coaching staff elected to go with Brett Howden instead.
It took an injury to the aforementioned Howden for Andersson to get called up to the NHL. But, in his first action of the season, the Swede looked comfortable against NHL talent and made a noticeable impact.
It is expected that Andersson will stay with the team until Howden is healthy enough to play. Being that Howden likely suffered a concussion, the coaching staff will be in no rush to bring him back. The player’s long-term health is more important than getting him back in the lineup of a .500 team.
This obviously raises the question: what is the team going to do with Andersson when Howden is healthy enough to return?
The problem is that the team has too many centers and not enough positions for all of them. General Manager Jeff Gorton did say that if the team felt he was able to play well, they’d consider keeping him at the NHL level. However, the team has to be smart about managing Andersson.
If the team sends Andersson back to the AHL, he can stay there the rest of the year and not burn a year off of the forward’s entry-level contract. On the other hand, how much more can the Swede get out of playing against lesser talents in the minors?
This is ultimately the balancing act that the Rangers will need to figure out. If Andersson is going to stay with the big club, he needs to get a decent amount of ice time. While Quinn has juggled Filip Chytil and Howden moderately well, it still hasn’t been smooth sailing in terms of ice time.
It’s been difficult for Quinn to juggle the various interests he has. A coach trying to keep his team competitive on a nightly basis while also finding ice time for young players is a tricky mix. Some players like Jimmy Vesey and Howden have taken Quinn’s mentality to heart and it’s why they’ve gotten more chances than others.
If Quinn feels like Andersson will fit in with the high intensity and relentless formula that he runs, then the former first-round pick will likely stick around. Ideally, the team can find a spot for Andersson to learn as a player. The Swede needs between 12 and 15 minutes per night to properly develop.
The Rangers are a team with a season to play with. Quinn is playing with house money and has nothing to lose if he lets the young players grind it out for 15 minutes per night, he’s just setting the team up for more long-term success. The more the young guys learn now, the less he has to teach down the road.