The most intriguing question asked at Monday’s Calgary Flames final media availability was if the core group assembled could contend for a Stanley Cup.
When defining that foundational collection of players — players you build around — you look in the direction of the team’s top line. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm. You look at the imminent long-term (and expensive) signing of Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund, who is Flame through 2023-24.
But lost in the mix is the potential of their young blueline which grew in leaps and bounds during the 2018-19 regular season.
“You see these young guys coming into the league and having success at a young age,” Flames head coach Bill Peters was saying before cheap nhl jerseys
the team went their separate ways earlier this week. “For me, I’m open-minded to the point where if you’re signing these guys, are they pushing for a job or are they depth in the organization? We have unbelievable depth in the organization. And it’s depth that’s on the cusp of not only playing in the league, but allowing you to win with them. That’s the important part. Guys like Doobs (Dillon Dube) and a guy like Vally (Juuso Valimaki), Shilly (Oliver Kylington). They want to come in and not only play, they want to be difference makers. They want more. They want more opportunity
“They want to take somebody’s ice time.”
Take Rasmus Andersson, for example.
He wasn’t even mentioned in Peters’ comments to the media, mostly because the 22-year-old Swedish blueliner did that already — he wanted to be a difference maker this season and earned an everyday spot in the lineup early on, taking somebody’s ice time.
There’s a good chance the right-handed d-man could jump into a pairing with Flames captain Mark Giordano on a full-time basis, especially given TJ Brodie’s struggles down the stretch and Andersson’s success when he was put in Brodie’s spot on the No. 1 pairing.
Andersson oozes confidence and certainly didn’t tip-toe into his first NHL playoff experience either. He finished his first NHL season with a goal and two assists in five post-season appearances, along with two goals and 17 assists in 79 regular season games.
Andersson was given a pile of ice time this season, the 10th-most on the team, and earned trust of the coaching staff in spite of his occasional rookie blunders.
Expect his average 16:02 ice time per game to increase in 2019-20. Ditto with his presence on the power-play.
“I don’t expect anything,” Andersson said, dismissing the notion of walking onto a pairing with Giordano on a full-time basis to start next season. “You’ve gotta work for it. If I get the opportunity, I’ll take that opportunity when it comes. But, I mean, we just finished the season (on the weekend) and I don’t really think about who I’m going to play with next year. It’s a coaches decision and wherever he puts me, I’m going to make the best out of it and try to move up in the lineup or keep my spot.”
It’s hard to believe that Andersson was the last blueliner sent down to Stockton and the American Hockey League at the beginning of the year.
But it only lasted a few days as he was recalled when Travis Hamonic suffered a facial fracture in the team’s season opener at Vancouver and the rest was history.