Should the Vancouver Canucks acquire Lias Andersson?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 20: Lias Andersson #28 of the New York Rangers skates against the Vancouver Canucks at Madison Square Garden on October 20, 2019 in New York City. The Canucks defeated the Rangers 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 20: Lias Andersson #28 of the New York Rangers skates against the Vancouver Canucks at Madison Square Garden on October 20, 2019 in New York City. The Canucks defeated the Rangers 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Lias Andersson has requested a trade from the New York Rangers. Would he be a good reclamation project for the Vancouver Canucks ?

The holiday season is often devoid of interesting NHL stories, as the league takes a backseat to both the World Junior Championships and general holiday festivities.

However, the beginning of the holiday roster freeze did leave us with one interesting tidbit of information concerning New York Rangers forward Lias Andersson, one that could be very useful to the Vancouver Canucks.

On Dec. 21, it was reported that Andersson — the seventh overall selection by the Rangers in the 2017 NHL entry draft — had requested a trade, only two and a half years after being selected.

This is interesting news given Andersson’s status as a high draft pick, as well as a top prospect. News of his discontent with the Rangers organization was surprising for anyone not closely following the situation.

At only 21 years of age, Andersson is still young, even younger than other former top prospects who have experienced similar falls from grace, such as Jesse Puljujarvi and Josh Ho-Sang. At that age, he still likely has potential to be a quality NHLer, which begs the question of whether the Canucks should consider a trade for the young winger.

Should Andersson be able to return to his 2017 first rounder form, he could certainly contribute to the Canucks’ young core. Andersson is a two-way forward, capable of provide secondary offence while being very responsible defensively.

In his draft year, he recorded only 19 points in 42 games for HV71 Jonkoping of the SHL. However, he was a plus-21 in that time. Skewed as the plus-minus statistic is, that is a quite impressive number, especially considering that Andersson saw little power play action.

He played in the 2017 and 2018 World Junior Championships, often on a line with Elias Pettersson, where they had chemistry. At the 2018 tournament, Andersson scored six goals and added an assist in just seven games while playing with Petey, giving the impression that they could reconnect in Vancouver.

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However, the 2018 World Juniors shed light on one of the biggest issues with Andersson: his character. After Sweden lost in that year’s gold medal final, Andersson threw his silver medal into the stands, essentially refusing to accept the result.

The act was caught on camera and was seen as a sign of disrespect towards the victorious Canadian team.

As a result, Andersson got caught up in a firestorm of controversy similar to that currently surrounding Team Canada’s Barrett Hayton. The incident demonstrates that Andersson can be impulsive, which can be an issue in an NHL player.

While people do mature over time, the fact that he has requested a trade so soon after being drafted indicates a degree of entitlement that could be make him difficult to coach.

However, arrogance is not a career-killing trait in the NHL, so why has he failed to develop in New York? Unlike some players, it has actually been the Rangers’ development methods holding Andersson back rather than any personal problems. Ever since the 2017 draft, he has been severely mismanaged, causing losses in production.

Andersson was on track to follow the same trajectory as Pettersson. In the 2017-18 season, the former joined Frolunda of the SHL where he was set to play his entire draft-plus-one year. However, following solid production in the SHL, the Rangers decided to bring Andersson over to North America to play for the AHL’s Wolf Pack Hartford mid-season. While he scored at approximately the same rate for the rest of the season, one can’t help but consider whether the change in location affected his development, especially when comparing him to Pettersson, who played that entire season in Sweden.

It has really been since the start of the 2018-19 season that Andersson’s development has fallen off, likely due to his deployment in both the NHL and AHL. Through his 66 games at the highest level, Andersson has been stuck on the Rangers’ fourth line, playing a shutdown role alongside depth wingers, a role to which he is not suited.

For reference, he has played ample time with career fourth liners Micheal Haley and Greg McKegg. As a result, his only point was a single assist through the first 17 games this season. During this time, Andersson’s ice time in some games has been as little as three or four minutes, with similar deployment in the AHL.

In New York, Andersson has not been given the opportunity to develop properly, which has prevented success in the NHL. Therefore, it is likely that the solution to his woes could be as simple as a change of scenery, and that could very well be in the Canucks’ system.

Andersson would likely be unable to step into the NHL right away. He would likely spend the rest of the season with the Utica Comets, where he would likely get more of an opportunity than in Hartford, developing through the same system as Kole Lind or Brogan Rafferty. Should the change go well, he can challenge for a spot with the Canucks next season. His presence only adds to the Canucks’ already strong prospect pool.

Furthermore, he would be a relatively cheap addition for the Canucks. With his lack of development and history of personal flaws, Andersson’s value is low, lowered further by the fact that the news of his trade request is public, reducing the Rangers’ bargaining power in trade negotiations. Few teams will be willing to pay a premium for a prospect that may or may not become an NHLer. Considering this, what would Andersson cost the Canucks?

The price for Andersson would likely be a prospect or a draft pick, as the Rangers are a rebuilding team in need of young players. As unpopular as the idea would be in Vancouver, the Canucks have far more to offer in prospects than draft picks. Andersson would not cost them one of their blue-chip prospects such as Vasili Podkolzin; it would more likely be someone less impactful, perhaps someone such as Zack MacEwen.

The Rangers have a particular need for left-handed defencemen at the moment, and the Canucks could provide. While Rafferty, Jack Rathbone and Jett Woo are likely too valuable to the team’s future, the Canucks do have a potential reclamation project in Olli Juolevi.

Whether or not you believe that Juolevi has a future in the NHL, the other former top-10 pick could also use a change of scenery. Perhaps a swap of the two fledgling prospects could suit both the Canucks and Rangers. If Jim Benning wanted to sweeten the deal, he could throw in a depth scoring piece such as Nikolay Goldobin or Sven Baertschi.

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In conclusion, Andersson would be a low-risk acquisition for the Canucks. He would likely cost relatively little, and should he realize his 2017 potential, could fill a middle six role in Vancouver in a few years’ time. The Canucks should pull the trigger on a deal for Andersson, but as long as the price is low. Benning should avoid rushing a deal at the risk of bidding against himself and overpaying. If he waits while Andersson’s value drops even further, the young winger could be a steal.