It’s pretty fitting to wrap up the, uhh, wrap-ups of Stockton’s defenders by taking a closer look at Rasmus Andersson, probably the most discussed Flames prospect all year.
The young Swede is part of the quartet of exciting Flames prospects, but is probably the most NHL ready at this point. He’s spent the past year running roughshod all over the AHL and having fans count down the days to the moment he becomes a regular NHL contributor.
The good news is that the day is almost here. From all indications (including a shoutout from the head coach in his intro press conference), Andersson is here to stay. So what can we expect from Rasmus?
Andersson was an up-and-comer in the Swedish hockey leagues, becoming a regular contributor in the Allsvenskan (Swedish second league) by age 16. His strong performances both domestically and internationally (finishing just under a point per game in 43 appearances for Team Sweden) saw him head to the Barrie Colts as the 37th overall pick in the CHL import draft.
In Barrie, Andersson made an immediate impact. He finished third in OHL defenseman scoring, with numbers one and two both being a year older than him, and finished fourth in team scoring (right behind Andrew Mangiapane). That earned him a spot on the OHL’s second All-Star team, an invite to the CHL Top Prospects Game, and the honour of being the 53rd overall selection of the Flames in the 2015 NHL Draft. His second OHL year was more of the same, but slightly better: he finished top among defencemen for points and assists and was bumped up to the first All-Star team.
With nowhere really to go, Andersson headed to California. After infamously being berated for his conditioning at development camp, Andersson had himself a great season, picking up 22 points in 54 games and earning his NHL debut after sitting in the press box as the Flames’ seventh defenceman.
Andersson held down the top spot in Stockton in two different ways. Primarily, he was top of the defensive depth chart, playing in all situations and munching minutes alongside Tyler Wotherspoon.
He was also #1 in call-up priority, but was unfortunately underused in this regard. Andersson went up and down plenty of times to cover for injuries to TJ Brodie and Travis Hamonic, but rarely received playing time in lieu of Matt Bartkowski. As injuries piled up towards the end of the season, Andersson became a bit more of a lineup regular, finishing the year with 10 games played.
|GP||G||A||P||Primary points||5v5 Points||5v5 Primary points||NHLe|
Andersson was just that much better than last season, and consistently so. His NHLe consistently hovered between 26 and 28, the highest on the Stockton Heat. Andersson is a safe defender all around, and won’t make back-breaking mistakes. He doesn’t take too many risks, but you’re at least going to know what you get from him at either end of the ice.
That’s not to say that his offensive ability is muted. He has a pretty even ratio of primary to secondary points, which compared to defencemen like Oliver Kylington and Juuso Valimaki, is eyebrow-raising but understandable. He’s doesn’t really jump into the forward rush like those two do, but he is certainly the starting point of the offence, and generally gets the play started from the backend. He’s also unafraid to shoot the puck a lot, as shown by his 134 shots, finishing second on the team to Spencer Foo (161).
In the NHL, Andersson was pretty fine. Take what you want from the final few games of a wasted season, but Andersson-Kulak was a decent pairing (51.82 CF%, 51.72 OZS%, 57 5v5 TOI). Hell, he made Bartkowski look passable (55.68 CF%, 67.86 OZS%, 43 5v5 TOI).
It’s 10 games, but he did a good job of just looking like he belonged. That’s pretty much all you can ask for from a second-year, 21-year-old defenceman.
Andersson’s production this year matches well with the production of current solid NHL defencemen. 72% of players with similar production in all situations eventually made the NHL, scoring at about a 0.38 PPG clip: solid second pairing numbers.
That number goes down to 50% when considering 5v5 production, but considering that includes the still-developing (and forever a Flame, even if for just a few hours) Ryan Murphy, it could jump to 75% by next season. Again, similar 5v5 players contributed about 0.36 PPG in the NHL.
When considering players who matched at AS and 5v5, 66.67% of them graduated to the NHL, scoring at a 0.36 PPG clip.
That’s a trend over his career. Andersson had great comparables last season as well, with 60% of his AS matches playing 200 games, 83% of his 5v5 matches playing 200 games, and 100% of both AS and 5v5 matches playing 200. It’s a pretty good sign that Andersson is likely going to stick in the NHL for a while.
Oddly enough, his production almost perfectly matches that of Adam Clendening thus far, the only miss being their 19-year-old AS production. Clendening was another right-handed, highly coveted defensive youth with an early birthday that had great results in the AHL. However, they did not translate over to the NHL, and Clendening is pretty much just an AHLer at this point.
Clendening can perhaps be a red flag, but also a lesson. In the NHL, Clendening rarely saw the ice. The most games he played in a season was 31, and his age 21 year saw him get traded and only play 21 games. He bounced around from team to team and league to league, which is certainly unideal. No prospect develops from the press box, but people treated him that way, perhaps based on heightened expectations that they felt he wasn’t living up to (Clendening was a good shutdown third pairing guy during his time in the league, albeit without much of a scoring edge).
I feel Clendening can be an example of what to avoid when dealing with Andersson. He may not be blowing the league away right when he steps on the ice, but patience will be key in his development.
The Flames have to make a spot for Rasmus. There’s nothing left for him to prove in the AHL and there’s really no point in keeping him there anymore.
Michael Stone is past his due date, and that arguably happened sometime around game 41. He might be a good soldier but he is quite clearly replaceable. Andersson looks, at the very least, more capable, more intelligent, and more skilled than Stone without all of the NHL experience. It’s certainly a stretch to assume that his AHL performances will directly translate over, but given what Andersson can offer you and given the amount of runway the Flames have with him, it can’t hurt to give him that spot. At best, he’s a burgeoning top four defenceman next year. At worst, he’s Michael Stone.
Working with Bill Peters will also be important. The Flames’ new head coach has made his name from turning young defenders into NHL regulars in quick order, and that’s going to be one of his major jobs this season with Andersson. If he can make him an immediate impact defenceman as he did with Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, it’s great news for the Flames.
Tyler Wotherspoon | Oliver Kylington | Josh Healey & Adam Ollas Mattsson | Mitchell Mattson | Hunter Smith | Mason McDonald | Tyler Parsons | Juuso Valimaki | Nick Schneider | Adam Ruzicka | Matthew Phillips | D’Artagnan Joly | Glenn Gawdin | Zach Fischer | Dillon Dube | Filip Sveningsson | Eetu Tuulola | Adam Fox | Linus Lindstrom | Pavel Karnaukhov & Rushan Rafikov