Rasmus Andersson: The lone CHL skater still at camp

And then, there was one.

Canadian Hockey League skater left at Flames camp, that is. With the junior season set to begin at the end of this week, the Flames have been returning their junior players to their teams. Pavel Karnaukhov and Andrew Mangiapane had outstanding rookie camps, but they were never going to make the big club; it made more sense from a developmental standpoint to get them back to the Hitmen and Colts than to have them play more preseason games. Their seasons officially start Friday, Sept. 25.

Rasmus Andersson – also a Colt – remains at camp, though. And he’s the only surefire junior league skater to still be there.

That’s kind of impressive.

A little caveat

Keegan Kanzig and Hunter Smith, as 20-year-olds, are still eligible to return to the WHL and OHL, respectively, as overagers for the Hitmen and Generals. They’re also eligible to begin their professional careers this season. So they may technically still be CHL skaters at camp, but it’s not guaranteed.

Somewhat similarly, Oliver Kylington may, in fact, end up as a Wheat King this season; that said, he could be a member of the Heat, as well. There’s no guarantee he goes to junior.

The only clear-cut CHL players left at camp, Andersson aside (because he played in the OHL during his draft season, he’s locked in, unless he goes back to Europe, or makes the Flames), are Mason McDonald and Nick Schneider: two goalies.

So while Andersson technically isn’t necessarily the only CHL skater remaining at Flames camp, he’s the only guaranteed one, if that makes sense. The Flames’ first cuts were nearly all of the junior players, Mangiapane followed a few days later, and Andersson is… still there.

Quickly rising through the ranks

Is Andersson going to make the NHL this season? Probably not – and it’s pretty rare for 18-year-old defencemen to turn pro – but the fact that he’s still around and wasn’t sent back to Barrie with Mangiapane points towards just how far along his development he may already be.

There was a lot of hype around the Flames’ young defencemen at the NHL draft. How could there not be, when they had just acquired Dougie Hamilton? And to add on to that, they even got Kylington at 60th overall, even though he was projected to be a first round pick – maybe even at 15th overall, when the Flames were supposed to have their first pick originally.

Andersson wasn’t a name that high on the radar, though. NHL Central Scouting had him ranked at 93rd for North American skaters, while TSN had him at 59th, and The Hockey News at 45th. Those are respectable rankings, for the most part (except for Central Scouting – rude), but not necessarily something you get especially excited over.

It’s been just a few short weeks, though, and Andersson has already staked out a spot for himself at the top of the Flames’ prospect pool. Kylington was the big name, and he got his deal signed much earlier, but Andersson is officially right up there with him.

Andersson’s own ELC came on the backs of two excellent performances in Penticton. There, we saw his smarts, his offensive acumen (nearly a point per game in his first season in the OHL as a defenceman – that’s pretty good), and smooth skating on display. It became clear pretty quickly just why the Flames decided to use their first pick of the 2015 draft on him.

When does he get cut?

As fun as it would be, Andersson is very unlikely to make the Flames out of camp, even with T.J. Brodie’s injury creating a new opening. Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, Kris Russell, and Dennis Wideman already hold down four of six spots. Deryk Engelland and Ladislav Smid have big salaries, and the former in particular was heavily relied upon in 2014-15.

Then there are older, more experienced players fighting for a spot to compete with as well: Jakub Nakladal is off to a good start, and you know Ryan Wilson wants to earn a contract. Tyler Wotherspoon is on the final year of his ELC, and the clock is ticking on him, as well.

Even if Andersson’s current skills and level of experience weren’t an issue – and they are – there are too many bodies in the way for him to be in the NHL this season.

And yet, he’s impressed well enough that he has yet to be cut.

The Flames don’t play again until Thursday, Sept. 24 in Denver. Andersson is making the trip. Barrie’s first game is the following day. There’s a pretty decent chance he doesn’t start his OHL season on time.

This also bodes the question: just where is he going to be playing next year? If the Flames view Andersson to be ahead of their other CHLers – and the fact that he’s still around seems to indicate they do – then this could be his final junior year. Thanks to his October birthday, Andersson will be eligible to turn pro and play in Stockton in 2016-17 – and that may very well end up being the best place for him.

The returns are still early, but Andersson has already made the Flames’ defensive prospect pool significantly more exciting. He’s right up at the top.

      • RedMan

        Ordinarily I would be exactly as emphatic as you, but apparently it depends on his contract status back home. Julius Honka played in the AHL last season in spite of being a WHL draftee that was a year too young.

        • TX Flame

          No, it depends on where he was playing when drafted. Players under 20 who were drafted out of the CHL either have to play in the NHL or get returned to their CHL team. Players who were not drafted out of the CHL can be sent to the AHL, even if they play for a CHL team later. (eg. Patrick Sieloff)

          • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

            Wrong…Honka played for the Swift Current Broncos his entire draft season then the following year played in the AHL.

            A simple google check on Honka will confirm this.

  • Christian Roatis

    The fact the Flames walked into the draft with no 1st rounder and emerged with 2 bluechip D prospects – exactly what they needed – still blows my mind.

  • Christian Roatis

    He has showed really well so far and in retrospect you wonder why he was rated where he was.

    Practical asset management, with the Flames D-corps the way it is, nearly demands he goes back to juniors this year. The Flames will have three or four slots to fill in two years time and I see him making a real good push for one of them. Good times.

    • RedMan

      Of course Bennett could go back to the CHL. So could Conner McDiva. I’d say conner’s a better bet to go back, as he is younger and needs protection. Plus, Bennett is going to be in the Calder race, maybe win it, so he isn’t going anywhere.

    • Ari Yanover

      Yes…and so is Klimchuk (as an over-ager). She missed a few.

      And in what world is Andersson “right up there with Kylington”? He has blown Kylington away in every facet so far to this point, Kylington finally had a good showing up in Edmonton the other night after a number of questionable performances thus far, Fat Ras has been on fire since rookie camp and the best Dman on the ice for the Flames almost every game he’s played…Flames scouts 100% nailed it ranking Ras higher than Kylington

  • Christian Roatis

    One thing that caught my eye at the pre-season game against the Oilers was his strength, which may be the only reason he doesn’t make the team (outside of the sheer number of D on 1 way contracts). He played pretty well but had a hard time winning battles against what was essentially an Oilers AHL lineup with a 2nd line of an NHL team. Which isn’t really a surprise, if that’s the only negative thing to pull from a pre-season game, that’s something that can be fixed easily.

  • CofRed4Life

    It’s amazing we snagged him and kylington in the latter half of the second round. I think management is trying to give him a taste of what his development needs to be like this year. I think they send him back after tomorrow’s game for the start of the season

  • The Fall

    Andresson can still play nine nhl games and be sent back down, non?

    That’d be a fun ride to watch.

    Saw him in Penticton. Actually, couldn’t take your eyes off him: he was really good.

    • Ari Yanover

      Yeah, he totally can. I doubt he’d even make it to nine, though. That’d really be something.

      The last rookie defenceman I remember having a hell of a preseason was Brodie, and it was his first professional year, so he was AHL or NHL. Looked fantastic in preseason, got three NHL games, was clearly not even close to ready, got demoted.

      I don’t think Andersson makes it that far, but he’s been an exciting player for where he’s at right now.

  • Johnny Goooooooaldreau

    When I was a teenager I hated Gretzky and the Oilers so much that when Sather put Lowe and Huddy on the 84 Canada Cup team along with 10 other Oilers, I cheered for the Russians because I couldn’t bring myself to cheer on all those F-ing Oilers.
    Man, I hated the Oilers.

    But 30 years later I am now a grown up and I can allow myself to acknowledge good players no matter who they play for.

    None of you called McDavid “funny” names until he became an Oiler, so grow up and realize that he will be a great player and stop belittling him. He will be nothing like a wimpy Sedin. McDavid will make the BOA so good moving forward.

    I still hate the Oilers. (but they are still the first team I would want to see win the Cup if it’s not the Flames). Go Flames and Go Canadian teams.