When we profiled Kristian Vesalainen as a fit for the Calgary Flames at 16th overall, it was mentioned that he was one of two prominent European prospects that could be good fits for the club. Vesalainen is a versatile winger, but a good case can be made that a mature center could be headed to the Flames in the first round.
Let’s take a look at Swedish center Lias Andersson.
From Dobber Prospects:
Lias Andersson is a versatile forward. He has a mature frame, can play a variety of forward positions in a variety of situations. Andersson uses his size and strength to protect the puck and win puck battles at both ends of the ice. He brings energy and compete to every shift and has above average offensive upside as well. He has dominated offensively against his age group, produced offensively at international tournaments and is scoring about half a point per game pace against men in pro hockey in the SHL in his draft year.
From Future Considerations:
A smart, mature, two-way center…good decision-making, leadership qualities and advanced understanding of the game…a true three-zone player…defensively responsible…will drop to block shots or get his body in passing lanes…dangerous forechecker who reads the defense and uses an active stick to disrupt…covers up the ice for his teammates on the backcheck and always gives an honest effort…doesn’t commit a lot of mistakes and plays a very calm game while in puck possession…has solid offensive instincts…protects the puck very well and uses all of his frame to hold opponents off the puck…possesses a nice, quick shot release…not a flashy puckhandler, but can carry it up ice and distributes it well…goes to the net and plays in traffic…has solid vision and the ability to set up his linemates…has good balance and generates healthy amounts of speed…a potential two-way guy in the Zetterberg mold.
Craig Button has the Flames selecting Andersson in his May mock draft, with this assessment: “He can play any forward position and that versatility is valuable. Can skate, thinks the game well and competes.”
He’s not a huge kid, but he’s smart, poised and can play all three forward positions. If he was a right shot, Brad Treliving would probably drive to Sweden to fetch him himself.
Dive into the Nations Network scouting bio on Andersson for a bit more depth.
Andersson’s an interesting case. He’s an October 1998 birthday, just missing the cut-off for the 2016 NHL Draft by about five weeks, and so he went through many of the phases you’d hope to see from a draft-eligible player in 2015-16:
- He represented Sweden at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and the Under-18 World Championship.
- He transitioned from HV71’s junior club to the pro club, spending roughly a third of his year playing against men.
- He was very good points-wise in junior but didn’t score at all in the SHL.
He wasn’t amazing in 2015-16, but he built on that season with a pretty damn impressive 2016-17 campaign. He played almost exclusively in the SHL, racking up 19 points in 42 games. He led all under-19 players in that league in goals, assists and points. In a league where they don’t throw teens into the deep end he thrived, even playing playoff games en route to HV71 winning the league crown. He also jumped to Sweden’s World Junior club, scoring three goals in seven appearances at the tournament.
While he’s one of the older first-time eligible prospects available in the 2017 Draft, he had a strong season in a high-end men’s league.
Availability and fit
In terms of fit, Andersson seems like a slam dunk. His dad played for the Flames briefly and Lias spent a bit of time as a very young child living in Calgary. He’s Swedish, a place the Flames have heavily scouted and drafted from. He can play anywhere and seems like Mikael Backlund 2.0 in terms of his playing style and projection. That’s great, right? The issue is other teams probably see Backlund 2.0 and want their very own. Roughly two-thirds of the recent rankings have Andersson nabbed by another club before the Flames draft.
But if he’s available, he may be an ideal choice given all his attributes.