Lias Andersson celebrates his goal during the first period of their game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

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Hartnett: Patience Is Key For Andersson's Development

Sean Hartnett
November 09, 2018 - 1:28 pm
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Great things were expected from Lias Andersson when the Rangers drafted him with the seventh overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. At the time, the decision split the opinion of draft analysts. While some experts described the pick as a reach, others complimented the Rangers for drafting a versatile forward with a huge work ethic and leadership qualities.

A lot has been written about this kid and his development – but it’s easy to forget that he only turned 20-years-old a month ago. It’s far too early to make any firm conclusions about Andersson. He is still a young forward with considerable upside, and he’ll have the chance to write his own legacy through his performances in a Rangers’ uniform.

An injury to rookie center Brett Howden opened the door for Andersson’s 2018-19 debut. Andersson previously made his first strides in a Rangers uniform last season, recording a goal and an assist in seven games.

There was an expectation that Andersson had an inside track to make the opening night roster ahead of the new season. Instead, Andersson lost out in the competition and was given the opportunity to impress in a key role for the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack.

>>MORE: Hartnett: What Rangers Lack In Skill, They Make Up For In Heart

Andersson enjoyed a productive stint in the minors by registering 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 14 games. His fine play made it clear that his recall to New York was inevitable.

Howden is healthy and ready to return for Friday’s meeting with the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena, but Mats Zuccarello is being hampered by a groin strain that could force the wing to miss multiple games. This means that Andersson will have ample opportunity to prove his NHL staying power.

Andersson skated in Howden’s place on the third line throughout the Rangers’ 5-3 win over the Canadiens on Tuesday. The Swede skated alongside Jimmy Vesey and Jesper Fast, finishing the night with 12:17 minutes of ice time and three shots on goal. He was whistled for two minor penalties and won 78 percent of face-offs.

“I thought Lias had a good night,” Quinn said following the Montreal win. “I liked his game a lot tonight and I’m not surprised. He’s a good player, had a real good first six weeks down in Hartford. We knew he’d be back here eventually.”

Now that Howden has been given the green light, Andersson will be bumped to the fourth line for Friday’s contest. Filip Chytil and Vinni Lettieri will likely be his linemates.

Andersson has only appeared in eight NHL games. This small body of work is the earliest steps of his career. It’s only right that Rangers fans remain patient, as Andersson will have plenty to offer once he finds his legs in the fast-paced NHL.

It might take time for him to adjust, as it usually does with prospects. The Rangers seem to like Andersson’s tenacity, two-way intelligence, physical play and all-around upside.

Give him time.

Follow Sean on Twitter -- @HartnettHockey