The New York Rangers‘ prime number one center spot has been a point of turbulence for the team especially with the recent departure of Derek Stepan which has caused even more turbulence for the team’s center depth. As Derek Stepan and Oscar Lindberg (recently acquired by the Vegas Golden Knights) exit the Rangers have more questions for the center position than answers going into the 2017-2018 season.
While the 24 year old, Swedish born Mika Zibanejad is expected to take on Stepan’s role and Kevin Hayes being expected to satisfy the number two center role, the third line center position is one of contention. The vacancy opens potential for Rangers‘ rookie first-rounder Lias Andersson to step in and contribute immediately out of the draft.
The New York Rangers’ activity in the opening round of the the NHL draft over the last ten seasons has been largely “hit and miss” when they do actually have any pick at all to make a selection with. The 2017 draft broke a five year long drought for the Rangers in which they had no first round selections. Lias Andersson is one of two first round Rangers selectee’s in the 2017 entry draft and the club is certainly hoping he will be a “hit” for them as the 18 year old Swedish player gears up for a chance at NHL action.
Andersson has posted excellent numbers in juniors as well as a more-than-respectable campaign in the Swedish Hockey League with 19 points in 42 games in his most recent season — the second highest point total for a junior player. More notably his playoff performance with his Swedeish elite club was what stood out as his team went on to win the championship. He plays a solid two-way game and has the speed to keep up with Alain Vigneault’s system. Pair those traits with his already mature size (6′, 200lbs) and he may be ready much sooner rather than later.
The young Swede will need a stellar showing in both training camp and preseason action to get a legitimate chance at the opening-night roster. His competition for a role in the bottom-6 forwards will be staunch with the veteran David Desharnais being signed back in July and other young Rangers prospects like Cristoval Nieves battling for a spot as well. However, Andersson’s size and men’s league experience could help him find his game quickly in New York.
Rangers’ player personnel director Gordie Clark expressed some reserved optimism for Andersson’s chance at making a quick transition to the NHL during an interview after the draft. “I don’t really get into the timelines, but he’s playing in the men’s elite league as an 18-year-old so he’s probably a little further on then some juniors.”
“He does not lack confidence … he’s not a dynamic scorer — he’s a dynamic player.”