Everything is on the table for Rangers when it comes to Lias AnderssonNovember 20, 2019
Credit is owed the Rangers for treating Lias Andersson as they would any other young prospect required to earn minutes and not as an entitled seventh-overall selection of the 2017 entry draft that the Swede was just hours after the club had obtained that pick in the Derek Stepan deal with Arizona.
Credit to the front office led first by Glen Sather and now by John Davidson for not directing David Quinn to abandon his principles and give the youngster ice time the coach did not believe Andersson had warranted in order to make what appears an unwise draft decision look good.
But now that Andersson has been dispatched to the AHL for the third straight year, this becomes all about whether there is a path back to New York for the 21-year-old and if so, whether it might make more sense to shift Andersson to the wing once he suits up for the Wolf Pack.
For with a healthy Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, Filip Chytil and Brett Howden all ahead of Andersson on the varsity depth chart, a vacancy in the middle does not seem to exist. Even if Strome moves to the wing when Zibanejad returns from the neck/upper body injury that will sideline No. 93 for a 10th straight game Wednesday at MSG against Washington, that leaves only a minimal fourth-line role available for the third-year pro.
That is exactly where we came in and where Andersson went out after having played 3:55 in Saturday’s 4-3 defeat in Florida during which he had one third-period shift, did not get so much of a second on an inadequate penalty-kill unit and sat for the final 16:59. If Andersson’s ultimate upside following 66 NHL games in which he recorded nine (3-6) points while getting an average of 10:33 per is unknown, it is pretty clear the Rangers won’t draw it out of him if he continues in that role.
“We’re open to everything,” Quinn said when asked about shifting Andersson to the flank, where he lined up 10 times for the Rangers last season. “I think moving Lias to wing is an option, too.
“I think if he plays well, there’s an opportunity on the wing. I think everything is on the table for him if he goes down there and plays well and if we bring him up, maybe we do put him on the wing. But at his age I want to continue to give him a fair opportunity in the middle.”
Ah, but the question is whether Andersson did get a fair shot in the middle when skating limited minutes between Brendan Smith and either Greg McKegg or the now-waived Micheal Haley, none of whom has ever been mistaken for Artemi Panarin.
“I get that, and everybody talks about that, but there are things in this game that you need to do regardless of who your linemates are,” the coach said. “This isn’t about points. This is about, you watch the game and a player should be doing this and they’re doing that, a player should be doing this quicker and they’re not doing it quick enough, a player should be physical and they’re not physical. That has nothing to do with who your linemates are.
“I’m not just talking about Lias. I’m talking in general. A lot of players think along those lines and that’s a big mistake, that’s a big mistake if that’s what players are thinking because you should be able to be an effective player regardless of who you’re playing with. There are things this game is going to demand and you should be able to do them regardless of who’s on your wing or your D-partner is, or whoever. There’s an easy evaluation process for an individual.”
This isn’t Chytil II (or Chytil III). When the Rangers dispatched No. 72 to the AHL following a disappointing camp, they held that second center spot open for him. There is no such opening reserved for Andersson, who may or may not be able to increase his value as a trade chip by playing well in Hartford, for whom he recorded 34 points (11-23) in 61 games the last two years.
“There’s got to be consistency to his game and one of the things he’s got to work on is playing faster,” said Quinn. “That’s a simple answer but a lot of times it is the answer for a lot of players.
“He’s got to play faster, it’s got to be a little bit quicker from one play to the next. It’s not just skating fast, it’s playing fast. There were times he did that but there were times when he wasn’t playing quite fast enough.”
Through two-plus years, Andersson has gone nowhere fast for the Rangers. Maybe he needs a move to the wing. Or maybe just a move out of the organization.
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