Remember when neither Rasmus Andersson nor Andrew Mangiapane were on the opening day roster for the Flames? Knowing what both have accomplished this season, it’s hard to believe that was actually the case. Both Andersson and Mangiapane have been pleasant surprises and have solidified themselves as NHLers heading into the 2019 postseason.
For me, one has established himself as a core piece going forward while the other is knocking on the door. The rapid progression of Mangiapane and Andersson is a great story for this season and even more promising in the bigger picture.
Andersson has looked ready for full-time NHL duty for quite some time. I thought he was ready for prime time going back to last season and deserved to start the season with the team. It didn’t quite work out that way, but Andersson joined the Flames in short order and hasn’t looked back. I’m not sure I saw him blowing by Michael Stone on the depth chart as quickly as he did, though.
Over a full season, Andersson’s on-ice outputs at five-on-five (above, courtesy Natural Stat Trick) were respectable but not overly impressive at a glance. However, looking at Andersson’s entire body of work doesn’t show how rapidly he improved, and how his usage changed as a result.
Andersson started in a very sheltered role paired with fellow rookie Juuso Valimaki on the team’s third duo. While showing plenty of promise with the puck on his stick, Andersson went through expected growing pains defensively. What many didn’t expect was how quickly he’d move past that adjustment period. Take a look at Andersson’s even strength splits prior to and following Calgary’s nine-day break at the end of January.
|Oct. 3 – Jan. 22||Feb. 1 – April 6|
What we’ve seen from Andersson since the beginning of February is not only a significant improvement from his first four months, it’s downright outstanding. Since the break, Andersson’s high danger ratio is tops among Flames defencemen, while his possession rate has done a complete 180 compared to usage. Andersson has gone from being a rookie defenceman finding his way to one of the best on the team in the blink of an eye.
While Calgary is set to start the 2019 postseason with Andersson on a third pairing with Oscar Fantenberg, would it surprise anyone if he was bumped up to Mark Giordano’s right side on a regular basis? Andersson has shown the ability to play top pairing minutes when called upon, and I think he’s put himself in that conversation permanently starting next season.
There was a time earlier in the season where I wondered if it was going to come together for Mangiapane. In the 13 games he played prior to Calgary’s January break, Mangiapane had just one point, although an injury didn’t help things. Mangiapane has recorded 12 points (8G, 4A) in the 31 games he’s played since, which is nothing to write home about on the surface. However, a look at his underlying stats paints a different picture.
At five-on-five, Mangiapane is spending more time than most of the team’s forwards on the attack, and he’s helping generate high end chances in the process. Granted, Mangiapane has played a limited role for the most part; he was on the team’s true fourth line for quite some time. In saying that, he’s more than made use of his ice time, which is proven by looking at his individual rates.
When on the ice at five-on-five, Mangiapane is consistently around the net and creating. The guy has a wicked shot and is hard to knock off the puck, especially considering his stature. And the news gets better; Mangiapane’s line with Derek Ryan and Garnet Hathaway has moved the needle to the point it’s tough to consider them a fourth line anymore. That means more ice time for one of the team’s most effective forwards.
Had you asked me a year ago, I’d have said Mangiapane has a shot to be a full-time NHL bottom six forward. Well, he’s checked that box; Mangiapane is a legit NHLer, no questions asked. But I don’t think he’s reached his ceiling. Knowing how he’s progressed in his rookie season, the Flames could be looking at a member of their top six forward group in the very near future.