The Calgary Flames took their time getting to the podium at the 2015 Draft. After trading away their first round selection in a deal for Dougie Hamilton, they finally made a pick at 53rd overall. Their pick? Someone that appeared all over rankings and preliminary mock drafts before the event: Swedish import defenseman Rasmus Andersson of the Barrie Colts.
While Andersson was rated 93rd among North American skaters by Central Scouting – making his selection at 53rd overall somewhat of a reach – the Flames seemed to value many of his qualities. Among them? He’s a right-handed shot, he’s played pro hockey in Sweden, and he’s made the leap to North America on a good team in a good league without losing a step.
“Obviously you always want to go as high as possible,” shared Andersson, reflecting on the draft process and the uncertainty of where he could go and when. “I’m really happy to be a part of the Calgary Flames, and I’m just really happy to be here. And I don’t really care where I went, I’m just happy I went to Calgary here. And I think they believe in me pretty good, so I’ve just got to keep working here.”
Fun fact: Andersson comes from Sweden, where it’s not uncommon for players to dip their toes into pro hockey in either the Swedish Hockey League or HockeyAllsvenskan (their secondary league) as teenagers. Andersson? He played his first game at the age of 15 – just prior to his 16th birthday – for his hometown Malmo Redhawks against a familiar team: Orebro, coached by former NHLer Peter Andersson.
“Obviously it was fun to play pro when I was that young,” said Andersson. “I actually played my first game against my father’s team, so that was quite an experience. You learned a lot from older guys who played in higher levels, and it taught me really much.”
Andersson’s first pro season, 2012-13, was pretty interesting. Not only did he face off against his father’s team but he also played against a ton of established National Hockey League stars who were suiting up in Sweden during the lockout. One of those was Flames forward Mikael Backlund, who was playing with Vasteras at the time.
“I talked to him a little bit on Twitter and he seems to be a great guy,” said Andersson. “I remember playing against him and he’s a great player. I played against a couple other good guys there; I played against Anze Kopitar, Bobby Ryan, Patrik Berglund, and a couple other guys. I played against a lot of good players that year.”
Despite finding some success in the Swedish professional ranks, before too long Andersson got the itch to do what his father did – head to North America with the aim of playing in the NHL.
“My second year pro I didn’t play as much,” explained Andersson of the decision to leave Sweden. “We had a little bit better team and I got injured, when I get back from my injury I didn’t really play much. That was when me, my agent, and my father took the decision I got to try something new. I wanted scouts to see me a little bit more, so that’s when I took the decision to come over.”
Andersson turns 19 in October. He was fourth in team scoring in Barrie with 64 points, more than double the next highest-scoring defender. He’ll be eligible to be assigned to the American Hockey League the season after this one (2016-17). He established himself as a rock-solid OHL defender in his first season in North America; the challenge for him will be proving to himself and the Flames organization that he doesn’t require additional seasoning before returning to the professional ranks.