53Rasmus Andersson
Photo Credit: Candice Ward/USA Today Sports

FlamesNation player evaluation: Rasmus Andersson

A couple seasons ago, Rasmus Andersson’s fitness level was criticized by Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving. A season ago, Andersson seemed too good for the American Hockey League. This season, he was arguably the team’s most pleasant surprise as he made a major impact on the Flames’ blueline group.

2018-19 season summary

For a player that began the season in the minors, it’s a bit crazy that a case can be made that Andersson was the second-best Flames defenseman behind Mark Giordano. Blessed with an accurate shot from the point, strong hockey sense and more poise than you’d expect from somebody playing just their third year of professional hockey, Andersson was one of the most consistent Flames players during the 2018-19 season.

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Games played Goals Assists Points TOI/GP 5v5 CF% 5v5 CF% rel OZS% PDO
79 2 17 19 16:02 50.84 -3.91 57.86 1.026

Andersson was sent to the farm by the Flames on Oct. 2, the last defenseman cut by the team at the end of training camp. The very next day, Travis Hamonic broke his jaw fighting Erik Gudbranson four minutes and 22 seconds into the first game of the regular season. The Flames summoned Andersson from Stockton on Oct. 5, and he stayed for the rest of the regular season – he was good enough when he got a chance to play that there was no way he was going anywhere.

The Swedish defender was used in three different situations:

  • In a sheltered role on the third pairing with either Oliver Kylington or Juuso Valimaki. This situation saw the third pairing get hefty amounts of offensive zone starts and frequent deployments with Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm. They were put in a position to generate offense and while their numbers were gaudy, they were effective in that role.
  • In a make-shift second pairing with Noah Hanifin. This situation was always a mid-game adjustment, usually in response to occasional rough nights for Hanifin and Travis Hamonic’s pairing. Andersson and Hamonic were often swapped mid-game so the Flames could get a different energy going.
  • Late in the second, Andersson was moved up to play with Mark Giordano on the first pairing. This situation saw Andersson used like Giordano: tough deployments and match-ups often against the other team’s best players, usually with Mikael Backlund’s line on the ice with them.

Andersson did a great job earning the trust of the coaching staff during the season, and kept building his game to the point where he never looked out of place playing with Giordano late in the season. A decent proxy for measuring the level to which the coaching staff trusted Andersson could be his use with the Flames’ goaltender pulled. He played 28:46 with the net empty, behind only Giordano in terms of defensemen. He was relied upon for his shot and he led the team in shot attempts in that situation. He was third among all Flames defensemen in five-on-five shots on goal, and that’s with him playing considerably less than other defenders and the coaching staff noting to the media that they didn’t think he used his shot enough.

In terms of rates – evening out ice time – Andersson was the worst of the Flames’ regular defensemen at offense generation – his shot attempts, shots, scoring chances and high-danger chances for rate weren’t amazing. But he ranked between first and third on the team’s blueline group in the defensive rates: the suppression of shots attempts, shots, scoring chances and high-danger chances. Some of his defensive metrics have to be taken with a grain of salt given he spent roughly two-thirds of his season playing on the third pairing against the other team’s bottom six, but you can see why Peters would think Andersson could hack it with Giordano down the stretch.

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Compared to last season

Andersson’s 2017-18 saw him yo-yo between the Flames and Stockton three times. As with this past season, he was the last defenseman cut from training camp, but he stayed in Stockton until early November and only ended up playing 10 NHL games. His entire season on the farm was an extended argument that he had outgrown the minor leagues: he had nine goals and 39 points in 56 AHL games. He was eighth in the AHL in defensive scoring and that was despite playing between seven and 20 fewer games than the seven players ahead of him. On a per-game basis, only a handful of AHL defensemen had the offensive numbers or the shot generation rates that he did.

In other words: he was a very good minor league defender as a 21-year-old and every indicator suggested that he would become a pretty good NHLer. Lo and behold, things seem to keep trending in that direction.

What about next season?

The 2019-20 season will be the final season of Andersson’s entry level deal. He’s carrying a minuscule $755,833 cap hit next season – league minimum is $700,000 – so he could be one of the league’s best bargains. Barring other moves, he’ll likely begin the season on the third pairing. That said, between his strong play in 2018-19 and head coach Bill Peters’ growing preference for shot-balancing defensive pairings, there’s a considerable chance he could play significant time with Giordano on the top pairing. His underlying numbers, particularly his shot suppression metrics, suggest he’s worthy of an expanded role going forward.

  • meat1

    My bet is that he doesn’t start next season on the third pairing. And I love how he isn’t afraid to get involved during OR after the whistle. Monahan and Jankowski are the opposite.

      • withachance

        Shaw is under contract, so cant give an raise even if BT wanted to. Yeah Stralman was iffie, but could easily change to Fantenberg for 1M (just any physical dman that can complement Vali).

        Stone was bought out – let’s be honest no one is going to take him and wasnt keen on paying to get rid of him

        • Beer League Coach

          Why buy him out and pay $1.6 m per year for 2 years? You could trade him for a draft pick with $1.5 m retained. A draft pick, even if it is a late round pick, and only paying 1.5 for 1 year is a lot better than paying 1.6 m for 2 years just to get him off the roster.

          • withachance

            I mean yeah you could – im just not a fan of giving up a 4th or 3rd just to get someone off the roster. Also not sure if there’d be even appetite from other teams.

          • withachance

            Hahaha im with you, but i feel like he’s in a situation where he’s a waste anywhere else on the lineup. Might as well use him and see if he can pop off. Not optimistic but realistically he’s still here next year (unless BT can work his magic again – even then I feel like he’s going to have a nice season just to spite the Flames).

            Putting him with Monny and Tkachuk makes it so he can at least keep up with his lineups and have some linemates that can cycle and get him the puck in shooting positions. Thats the idea anyways

        • Bawcos

          So why bother buying out Stone and signing Stralman? You want a physical guy to complement Vali, Why not Stone? Plus, that would save you money for following years.

    • Flameon13

      I like the deals but if Fantenberg comes in cheaper than Stralman I’d go with him for a 6th dman. Though I think Frolik is worth a 3rd rounder rather than a 2nd and a 4th. Also instead of Nilsson for 1.8mill I’d look at maybe Robin Lehner for possibly 3.5mill-4mill for 4 years just use the say you save 1mill going Fantenberg over Stralman you’d still have space to come up with the extra 700k-1.2mill. Interesting look too with Shaw, with the cap space left I’d even look to move Brodie to TOR instead along with Janko and our first for Kadri and Kapanen makes some sense for them as well as they move Kadri’s contract to create space while filling the hole Gardiner leaves in the top 4 and they get a cheap defensively sound 3rd line center and a first to draft some cheap depth since they are in cap hell. Our lineup then based on the other moves you made would be:

      • withachance

        Lehner is pretty unrealistic. More than likely to stay with NYI after a Vezina worthy season. Actually no chance he leaves me thinks

        Brodie + Janko doesnt really help with their cap situations I dont think and they want a right hander. But yeah the point is to show how much cap space is available based on some extra UFA signings and offloading some key cap assets.

        • Flameon13

          Its hard to say islanders might stick with Greiss and sign a cheaper backup that what Lehner will get, plus they have other expiring ufas that they will want to keep and they may also be in the running for Panarin and generally don’t spend close to the cap limit it’ll be likely they cheap out and let him walk. Also with regards to Brodie and Janko to the leafs Brodie may not be right handed but there may not be many RHS defensemen available for what Toronto is willing to give up that is on such a reasonable contract like Brodie’s and who can eat up as many big minutes as he can. Janko’s 1.675mill hit is actually pretty good for a third line center so in the end with losing Kadri’s 4.5mill hit as their third line center for a 4.65m defenseman who would likely be their 3rd or 4th best defenseman doesn’t necessarily hinder them when it will already be a spot that they would have to spend to fill anyway and to fill Kadri’s third line center position Janko’s contract is actually a pretty good one to pick up because even with Marner’s huge contract looming they still have to ice a full team and would have 57mill locked up in 10 forwards (assuming Marner gets 11million) and 15 mill locked up into 5 defenseman and 5.75 mill in 2 goalies. If this deal happened they would then have roughly 54mill locked into 10 forwards and 19.5mill in 6 defenseman which a top 4 defenseman through free agency would of likely cost them atleast 3 million. Its more so relocating their cash from a position where they are paying too much to somewhere where they would have to pay a lot anyway.

      • Bawcos

        Nope. #1 – Kadri is a poor man’s 2C. Backlund is far, far better. #2 – Kapanen is not a top 6. Had 44pts (not 60) while playing alongside Auston Matthews! #3 – You haven’t accounted for Kapanen’s contract which He’ll use his 44pts to get anywhere between 3-5M. #4 – Plus a 1st rd pick? You just picked up TOR’s problem child who they are probably looking to fire sale off after his 5 illegal check suspension(Kadri) and a player they can’t afford to re-sign (Kapanen). For the exact pieces they would covet. A top 4 Dman who can move the puck and a perfectly priced 3C. Oh and they get a 1st? Congrats, you just saved the Leafs and Dubas. Nope!

  • Rudy27

    Ryan mentions Rasmus as being blessed with an accurate shot from the point. Should have added that he won the hardest shot competition in the AHL with something in the neighbourhood of 102 mile/hour!

  • Loud_voices

    As much as he was a really good addition to the team, I don’t think you can make the argument that he was the 2nd best…. You could probably make a case for 4th best but Gio, Brodie, Hanifin, and Hamonic all played really well for the most part all season.. at points all players struggled and had their lows but for the most part we had 9 really good defencemen this year. Which is amazing.

      • Loud_voices

        Yeah I think in the final bit of the season Andersson was doing all the right things where Brodie and Hanifin were making some big mistakes. I think alot of people give unfair criticisms to Brodie though, the guy is a puck moving defencemen who we have playing mainly a defensive role on the top line so his puck moving skills only come into play when moving up ice, that gives us a good transition game but defensively we know he’s not a Hamonic. So we see those lapses from time to time. But I give Brodie full credit because he’s the one that has allowed Gio to blossom into a Norris Winning defencemen. Gio played with Hamilton last year who’s supposedly a way better defencemen than brodie Yet Gios numbers are basically 100% better in every category. I mean a little credit has to be given to everyone, the forwards, the depth, the coach, Gio himself, but Brodie is the one that has played with him for most the year and allowed him to gain that confidence.
        I think people also forget that hanifin just turned 22. He still has some developing to do… Hopefully he eventually learns how to use that big frame of his. He also had career numbers this year so I’m really not worried. I think the best thing Calgary can do is lock up the top 6 d. Gio, Brodie, hanifin, Hamonic, Anderson, and Valamaki. We have to move somebody or else we risk loosing big at the expansion draft so I would vote kylington because you can probably get some decent assets for him because he’s got skill.

    • Baalzamon

      I’m glad people are finally realizing the Flames got the better end of that deal. Took long enough.

      Rejoice in the fact that Granlund, limited as he is, is an unequivocal upgrade on Shinkaruk. You win some, you lose some.

      And at least Baertschi isn’t bad.

    • BendingCorners

      It’s all part of Benning’s master plan. Ice a team that could win so fans show up, but won’t, so the picks are high. Admittedly his habit of trading picks for players past their prime doesn’t seem to fit, but after round two the picks are all crap shoots.Three or four more years and the high picks will all be playing together and the Canucks might start winning. Maybe.

  • freethe flames

    Ras’s progress has given BT some serious options. Along with the progress of Valimaki and Kylington the Flames are in a good position but with the lack of depth/prospects beyond these guys IMO prevents BT from going hog wild and move/buyout everyone not named Gio, He can afford to move one of TJ, Hamonic or Stone but not all of them. I would prefer guys who the coach knows and know the system. Fetenberg would be better than going elsewhere. The assets gained for TJ should be able to help the forward group; withachance suggest Andrew Shaw and while not the homerun some of us think we need he would be a welcome addition.

  • Budgie

    Andersson has that heavy shot from the point-he will be a top 4 defenseman and depending on what happens with trades he could be on the top pairing with Giordano. Hanifin with Hamonmic then Valamaki with Stone, Kylington, or Fantenburg? Calgary has Prout too-Defense is deep. Is the defense strong? Colorado was a handful, but it could be the back-checking that made things look panicked, Colorado peppered Smith with over 50 shots and Colorado’s top line would be in Calgary’s zone for an eternity, looked like they were on a power play but it was even strength.

  • Skylardog

    Late posting this but I can’t stay away from my new favourite Flame, at least since Ferly left. I don’t want Ferly back here by the way.

    Ras is awesome! He made Vali and Ky better at the NHL level because of how he played. He was our best DMan in the playoffs, hands down. He was a beast against MacKinnon, out playing that forward line in decent minutes against. Vali and Fant look good in the playoffs stat wise because they played with Ras.

    He should have made the team last season out of the gate. How GG let him go to the minors is beyond belief. He was the best DMan in camp, save Gio during the last 2 years. He is our best RD by a mile, and as Gio began to show his age in the playoffs for the first time, he is a lock to be the #1 RD. I say this because he will make Vali look better, and Ras should be with Vali. If Gio slips, Vali and Ras our top pairing by the end of next season. He may prove to be our best defender by camp.

    His transition to the NHL was so well managed and smart. He focused on playing defense first, knowing full well, that points would come in time. Keep the puck out of your net, and you will play. Pretty simple, right? That formula should be the model for all of our DMen as they try to crack the lineup.

    His presence means that Brodie becomes expendable. We will be able to free up cap space and pickup a much needed top 6 forward because this guy is on the roster.

    When Tre earns my purchase of a new Flames jersey it will have on it the number 4. Too bad he skipped the TDL. I would have bought one this season if he had picked up a forward to take us deeper in the playoffs.

    By the way, my number 4 will have a commemorative Brad McCrimmon patch on it.

    Now I am excited for next season. I have a short memory I guess, but something tells me I will get angry as the assessments get published in the weeks ahead. Nice to start with the brightest light.

    • Luter 1

      Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, I agree he looked good but this hard and supposed Accurate shot managed to bulge the twine 2 times including some PP time. I like his defensive aggressiveness but he also could cut to the net on his impressive rushes but prefers to skate behind the net much like the rest of this team. Is this coaching or our team make-up?
      Brodie out, Fantenberg/Kylington fills the shortcoming, Kylington is our next good surprise next year if he gets some icetime.

    • Em Durp Em Hrudey

      I cheers your comment for the Brad McCrimmon reference. He came out and played street hockey with the neighborhood kids and I when he was a member of the Flyers. Class act all the way.

  • Toma41

    Ras is a stud! Side note, how about Hamilton and the Hurricanes?! Holy moly. Peters leaves, Hamilton joins and theyre in the conference finals. Unbelievable. And 2 second round picks for a prospect who has never played an NHL game. Tre f:;ked up. Hamilton gets the last laugh

  • Franko J

    The future is Valamaki and Andersson pairing in Calgary.
    Win or lose with those two players going forward. Never mind two or three years waiting for other players on the backend to move on. Look at Carolina, is there a better pairing right now in the playoffs other than Slavin / Pesce? How about Lindell with the Stars? Another player who has raised his level of play. The Avalanche have one or two gems with Makar and Girard.

  • Alberta Ice

    Very impressed with the play of Rasmus! And congratulations to Carolina on their second round sweep. One was rather hoping the Flames would be doing what they are presently doing. They are making a 2004 Flames type run. Will Dougie and Micheal end up with names on the Stanley Cup? This is one team clicking on all cylinders now and winning in their barn will be a major undertaking for any opponents here on out. I like their chances for going all the way.

  • Flamesforever

    Andersson is proof of how far this organization has come in terms of its drafting and development. Give us a pick in the top 100 of of the draft and we will find an impact NHLer. My favourite pick was Valimaki, 16th overall and we managed to grab a future #1 dman. I hope we add some picks in this upcoming draft.

    • Toma41

      We dont know what Valimaki is yet. A huge cause for concern going forward with him is injuries. The kid is always injured. Misses a big chunk of playing time every season. Let’s hope that’s dealt with