Rasmus Andersson should be a threat to make the NHL as a regular, and considering the Flames’ overall defensive depth chart, that’s a compliment.
Taken in the second round, 53rd overall, of the 2015 NHL Draft, the 6’1, 214 lb. right-shot defenceman proved a tantalizing option this past season. The hope now is that he takes it and cements himself a regular in the top six, officially removing his prospect status: and it’s entirely possible he does just that. Andersson came second in our rankings in 2017, and he finishes in the same spot this year.
How did we get here?
From Malmö, Sweden, Andersson played for his hometown Redhawks and represented Sweden internationally at various age levels. This included playing in the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second highest league tier, as a 16- and 17-year-old, registering points per game of .29 and .30 over those seasons.
For his draft year in 2014-15, Andersson made the jump overseas. The Barrie Colts selected him 37th overall in the CHL 2014 Import Draft, and he rewarded them for it, jumping out to 64 points over 67 games in his first year of North American hockey: fourth on his team in scoring, and third league-wide in points by a defenceman. The Flames liked what they saw, and selected Andersson with their first pick of the 2015 draft.
He proved himself worthy of that pick for his 19-year-old season in 2015-16, scoring 60 points in 64 games, his points per game dropping from .96 to .94 as he finished fifth in team-wide scoring, but led all OHL defencemen in scoring. Andersson also wore an “A” for the Colts that season, and was a point per game in the playoffs with 15 in 15, again leading all defencemen.
The 2016-17 season signalled Andersson’s transition to professional hockey in North America. He opened with 22 points over 54 games for the Stockton Heat, finishing tied for ninth in team-wide scoring, second in team-wide defenceman scoring, and 14th across the AHL out of all rookie defenders. He also made his NHL debut, playing one game at the end of a season in which the Flames had already clinched a playoff spot.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
As an offensive defenceman, a fair bit of Andersson’s value will inevitably be tied to the number of points he generates. He’s yet to score at the NHL level, but in the AHL, he’s already proving himself to be top tier.
Andersson wasn’t just tied for third in scoring on the Heat; he was tied for seventh in scoring among all AHL defencemen. His being called up to the NHL had something to do with that, though; his AHL points per game of .7 had him sixth among high-scoring defenders in that league. He was also a frequent shooter: his 134 shots were tied for 21st among all AHL defenders.
Most of Andersson’s NHL games in 2017-18 were of the meaningless variety after the Flames were eliminated from the playoffs. He played one game in November due to injuries, then waited until the end of March to play in the Flames’ final nine games of the season. His minutes overall increased with the postseason out of reach, and he ended up averaging 15:26 a game overall. He did get some powerplay time towards the end, playing 15:37 total with the man advantage. His most common partners at 5v5 were Brett Kulak and Matt Bartkowski.
For a deeper dive into Andersson’s numbers, revisit Christian Tiberi’s writeup on him here.
Those in the know
Cail MacLean, Stockton’s new head coach for the 2018-19 season, spent the past year as an assistant in charge of defensive responsibilities. Considering he would have worked more with Andersson than most this past season, his knowledge on what he’ll have to do to become a regular NHLer is essential:
He is someone who is very confident in his abilities, and I say that as a total strength. He wants the puck in the most pressure-filled moments of the game. There’s an aspect of his personality that’s made for the highest level. So I think now his job is to mold that into: “What is the role that I can play at this point in time with the Calgary Flames, how can I find a way to make sure that I continue to play my game, but if I’m in a different role than I were with the Stockton Heat. What are the responsibilities that I have to make sure that I tend to and grow in addition to my offense and make sure I’m a reliable 200-foot defenseman?” which I know that he’s capable of. He’s a cerebral player and he’s a player that, as I said, likes the pressure. I think there’s a lot of upside in Rasmus and now it’s about trying to navigate the waters.
And Stockton’s Finest, our resident Heat correspondent, had great praise for Andersson based on his previous season:
He showed steady improvement throughout the year. Came into camp faster and more focused. He jumped into the offensive play more this past year as he gained confidence in his play. He was by far the best defensive player, if not the best overall player, for the Heat in 2017-18.
On the horizon
One could make a pretty solid argument Andersson has been ready for a regular role in the NHL since the 2017-18 season. One could very easily make that same argument for him to be on the opening night roster for 2018-19: after just two seasons, Andersson is already starting to look like he has little left to prove in the AHL.
The clock isn’t ticking for him, though; Andersson still has two years left on his entry-level contract. But he’s already one of the top defensive prospects the Flames have, and even though defensive slots at the NHL level already look rather full, he may be good enough to take one over for himself – probably sooner rather than later.
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