Lias Andersson is racking up a few more travel miles to Connecticut than originally expected.
For a third-straight season, the New York Rangers sent the young Swedish prospect to the organization’s AHL affiliate in Hartford over the weekend.
It’s hardly the start to life in the NHL the 21-year-old expected after being taken seventh overall by the Rangers in the 2017 draft.
The center, however, has not done much to warrant consistent time in the NHL as of yet.
In 66 career games, he has just three goals and six assists and has just one helper in 17 games this year.
Those are not the kind of numbers initially expected from a player that was going to develop into a two-way, scoring-line center.
In a matter of two seasons, Andersson has gone from being the future of the franchise to being expendable.
The Rangers suddenly have a set foursome of centers to roll out every night in Mika Zibanejad (currently injured), Ryan Strome, Filip Chytil, and Brett Howden. In a combined 54 games this season, they have put up 19 goals and 22 assists.
While Zibanejad was putting up his expected first-line production with 11 points in nine games before an upper-body injury sidelined him, Strome is exceeding expectations with 18 points (6 G, 12 A) in 18 games.
Late to the party was Chytil, but the 20-year-old has six goals in his first nine games with the club as the Rangers continue to have far more patience with him compared to Andersson, who played in just 3:55 in his last game before being demoted on Nov. 16 against the Florida Panthers.
In the meantime, Greg McKegg could see time as New York’s fourth-line center until Zibanejad returns.
With head coach David Quinn’s lineup seemingly set for now down the middle, the Rangers have a couple of options when it comes to Andersson’s future.
They could try to move him out to the wing, which is something Quinn already admitted to thinking about.
“I think if he plays well, there’s an opportunity on the wing,” he said (h/t Larry Brooks, New York Post). “I think everything is on the table for him if he goes down there and plays well and if we bring him up, maybe we do put him on the wing. But at his age, I want to continue to give him a fair opportunity in the middle.”
Playing time at center could be the main reason as to why Andersson is on his way back to Hartford. However, the Rangers could be using it as a showcase to trade the youngster.
Andersson has put up 34 points (11 G, 23 A) in 61 AHL games and a strong performance in Hartford this time around could be used to boost his hypothetical trade value.