It has been six years since the former general manager for New York Rangers, and current executive vice president of hockey operations for the Montreal Canadiens, Jeff Gorton, stepped up to the podium at the United Center in Chicago and selected Lias Andersson seventh overall in the 2017 NHL Draft.
The Swedish centre had left hometown team Frölunda to develop out of the shadow of his uncle Mikael Andersson and father Niklas, both Frölunda legends in their own way. For his last season in Sweden, he would go back to Frölunda, wearing his dad’s number until Niklas’s retirement ceremony.
It has been a long and undulating road for Andersson since his draft. He sustained a shoulder injury during the 2018 World Junior Championship in Buffalo, and the New York Rangers wanted him to come to their organization for rehabilitation. This cut his season with Frölunda short, though it did allow him to play a few games in the NHL that year.
Andersson left one North American coast for the other as he departed the Rangers organization for the Los Angeles Kings, continuing his roller-coaster ride between the NHL and the AHL. Last year he only played one NHL game, but took another step in his development as he was moved from centre to the wing. With a more offensive-minded role, he recorded 59 points (31G, 28A), finishing sixth in AHL goal-scoring with one more than the Laval Rocket’s Anthony Richard.
Andersson just slides into the Top 25 in his one and only appearance in the series. The community had Lias at number 26, the only discrepancy between the EOTP ballot and the official list (the readers had Cayden Primeau at 23), but the individual panellists had Andersson enter the list at 25.
The highest votes received were from Hadi and Marc-Antoine at 19, and the lowest was GetEm with 41.
History of #25
|2019||Gustav Olofsson / Jordan Harris|
|2016||Max Friberg / Jeremy Grégoire|
Andersson wears his heart on his sleeve. Passion is everything. The North American public first saw it after the World Junior Championship final in Buffalo as he tossed his silver medal into the stands. Swedish fans saw it again as he broke down during his father’s jersey retirement ceremony as the number was raised to the rafters.
This passion comes with leadership skills. He will lead by example, putting the team first in every situation. His natural guiding abilities will benefit whichever team he ends up playing on.
The goal-scoring touch he found last year is an interesting strength. If that trend continues at a higher level, it might be what allows him to finally stick in the NHL.
His defensive game isn’t one of his main attributes, and one would think that this is why he was shifted to the wing from his centre position with the AHL’s Ontario Reign. The move looks to have been successful from a scoring point of view and provides a new tool for his arsenal.
He says he likes the move and hopes that he can develop further, but he is also the first one to point out his own weakness. “I like ending up a little bit higher on the ice, to play defence a bit differently,” he explained in our conversation shortly after he was signed.
It is easy to pen Andersson in the Rocket’s lineup, however he seems set on playing for the Canadiens straight out of camp, or at least making the decision to send him down a difficult one. He has invested a lot of effort into a rigorous summer training regimen in order to succeed. It will be interesting to see if his goal-scoring talent is what can keep him in the NHL conversation.
One would think that this is the career-defining year for the player. He has come back to the person who drafted him after a successful transition to the wing. It is Andersson’s third NHL club, and if things don’t work out in Montreal it may be time for him to choose a career in the SHL or another league.
Never a person to shy away from the big stage, he chose to go to Montreal because hockey means something in the city. Players can’t hide in Montreal, much as in Jönköping where he became a Le Mat Trophy-winner. Soon we will find out if that passion for the game and the offensive talents he displayed in the minors last year can come together to fulfill the promise shown back in 2017.