Is Lias Andersson a bust?
In a rebuild, proven NHLer's are traded to cup contending teams in exchange for future assets such as prospects or draft picks. The cup contending team doesn't need a player that will be NHL ready 2-3 years down the road and on the other token, a team in a rebuild has no use for a player in his prime when there's no team to surround him. These assets obtained by teams during a rebuild however, are not certain to pan out as expected. Tons of players throughout the years have been looked at as 'the next big thing' and then end up not even cracking an NHL lineup. Thankfully, the Rangers have been great in terms of researching their prospects and have been very careful with how they go about their development, barring one case. Lias Andersson.
Lias Andersson, from the onset of his career with the Rangers, has unfortunately been a huge blip in what is one of the best prospect pools in the NHL. Lias was drafted 7th overall in the 2017 NHL Draft, which was definitely an off the board pick considering he was projected to go between 15th - 20th overall. However, the Rangers were high on his game and supposedly was their guy from the start. Don't get me wrong, coming into this draft, Lias showed the world he was a mature, creative center who can play both sides of the puck. His official scouting report stated "a virtual lock for a lengthy NHL career, and his style of play can fit any system". If I am the Rangers front office, hell yeah that's my guy too! A mature young center who played against fully developed hockey players in the SHL for 2 years, who is creative with the puck and is also sound defensively seems to me like a grand slam, but to draft him, at best, 8 spots ahead of his projection is a stretch. I would've liked to see the Rangers trade down for him if they were so keen on his game, which proved to be a faulty projection so far.
Sadly, Lias never lived up the hype and there are a whole slew of reasons why. The reason that most tend to point to is the lack of playing time. Since the onset of Lias' time with the first squad, whether it was because of a run in with the coach or an attitude problem, Lias never got the playing time he thought he deserved. In his first season, Lias played only 7 games in NHL after being sent down to the AHL for the remainder of the season. The following season, Lias started at the NHL but only registered a measly 7:34 avg ice time with wingers like Brendan Smith and Micheal Haley. Andersson struggled to produce points and was under heavy scrutiny, despite his below average playing time so after 36 games, Lias was sent to the AHL where he scored 20 points in the remaining 36 games. Almost the same thing happened this year. Lias struggled to put up points in the NHL so he was sent back down to the AHL. However this time he decided he didn't want to report to the AHL squad and told the Rangers he wouldn't be playing, which forced Gorton to loan him back to his SHL team. After this happened, tensions have been extremely high between everyone involved, including fans. Looking at all the data it's clear that Lias hasn't played well at all. However, considering the Rangers picked him at 7th overall, David Quinn should've given the kid much more of a chance and I can understand why Lias is so frustrated. You can't just draft someone that high in a draft and then just give up on them that easily. At the same time though, Lias, as a young player entering the league, has no say over how the coaches decide to play him. I understand that Lias might've thought his development was being hurt a bit but in a situation like this, Lias needs to have some respect for his coaching staff and needs to learn how to trust the process.
Lias still possesses great on-ice qualities, that if put together at the NHL level, give him a legitimate chance at becoming an impact player in the Show. Unfortunately, I do not see this success happening within the Rangers organization unless the situation makes a complete turn. But for the sake of the Rangers, let's hope I am completely wrong.