Rasmus Andersson seemed like a good bet when he was picked 53rd overall in 2015. A near point-per-game defender for the Barrie Colts that year, Andersson was well liked for his offensive capabilities and hockey IQ, but slipped due to concerns about his fitness and commitment.

Two years later and Andersson still looks a good bet despite those concerns. At just 20 years of age, Andersson was one of Stockton’s top blueliners last year and was even called up for a one-game audition with the parent club near the end of the season. His ability to jump to the top of the rotation straight out of junior is why Andersson continues to rank near the top of our prospects list. He improves to #2, up from #4.

A brief history

Andersson was an impressive prospect during his draft year for reasons beyond his high point totals in the OHL. At just 16 years old, Andersson was a regular skater in the SWE-1 (Allsvenskan) pro league in his native land. In fact, Andersson appeared in 81 pro games before skipping across the pond to join the CHL.

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Teens playing well in pro leagues tend to have good outcomes when it comes to projecting prospects at the NHL level. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that Andersson also turned out to be one of the best blueliners in the OHL during his two-year stint in Barrie. The 6′, 210 pounder scored 21 goals and 124 points in 131 games before moving back to the pro game with the Heat last year.

Andersson’s three goals and 22 points in 54 games for Stockton doesn’t seem all that notable, but 17 of his 22 points came at even strength (tied for best amongst Stockton defenders with Oliver Kylington), and by the end of the year he was often playing against the other team’s best lines.

In addition, Andersson had the best relative goal differentials for defensemen aged 21 or younger in the AHL last season:

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Of course, we have to take GF% with a grain of salt, because we don’t know how much of it was driven by something like on-ice SV%, which skaters don’t tend to have much control over. However, it is potentially another positive arrow for a player who seems to have a lot of those going for him.

Quotable

Calgary Flames development coach Ray Edwards praised Andersson for the work he’s put in, but noted there’s still room for improvement before he’s quite at the NHL level.

He’s got to get faster, he’s got to get stronger, he’s got to lean out a little bit. His brain is elite, so his body has to be elite. Like a lot of young players, it takes some time to get that body into an elite package and that’s one of Rasmus’ goals, is trying to get his body in the same sort of frame as his hockey brain is, because his hockey brain is off the charts – his ability to make plays and slow the game down, he doesn’t get rattled by pressure. He’s unbelievable with the puck. When he gets faster and when his pace can elevate to an NHL level, he’ll find himself pushing to play in the NHL.

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Stockton Heat head coach Ryan Huska noted improvements in Andersson’s game as his first pro year wore on.

We used Ras against top lines. A lot of times when you think about Rasmus, you think about a guy that’s got the offensive ability, that sees the ice really well, that can make some good plays with the puck because he’s got great instincts, but he’s got the intelligence that allowed us to play him against top lines. When you have that much trust in a young guy that he can get the job done against some of the best in the American Hockey League, I think it says a lot about where his game moved towards the end of the year where we trusted him in different situations and most nights he did an excellent job.

What comes next?

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Andersson seems to be the next guy who really should push for a job on the Flames’ blueline. Unlike a guy like Brett Kulak, however, Andersson’s ceiling is probably higher than a third pairing guy.

When Andersson ultimately makes the leap will depend on two things: how well the player continues to improve his conditioning and when a roster spot finally opens up on the Flames’ rather jam-packed blueline. For now, Andersson just needs to develop on the farm and wait for an opportunity to usurp one of the incumbents in the big league.

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Previously

#20 – Ryan Lomberg
#19 – Adam Ollas Mattsson
#18 – Daniel Pribyl
#17 – Eetu Tuulola
#16 – Adam Ruzicka
#15 – Emile Poirier
#14 – David Rittich
#13 – Hunter Shinkaruk
#12 – Matthew Phillips
#11 – Jon Gillies
#10 – Morgan Klimchuk
#9 – Andrew Mangiapane
#8 – Dillon Dube
#7 – Spencer Foo
#6 – Mark Jankowski
#5 – Oliver Kylington
#4 – Adam Fox
#3 – Juuso Valimaki

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