Wednesday, June 3, 2015

2015 NHL Draft Preview: 41st Overall Selection (New Jersey's third selection) Write-Up

Thank you for following my draft previews for the New Jersey Devils for this upcoming, 2015 NHL Entry Draft, now just 23 days away. This will be my final preview write-up for the Devils, covering the 41st overall selection. I will be writing more prospect player profiles for players after this, but it will not be related to the needs of any specific team, rather just out of pure interest. Below are links to my previous write-ups for the Devils:

6th Overall – Mathew Barzal
36th Overall – Denis Guryanov

Today we look at a facet of the draft that has become very familiar to Devils fans – drafting a defenseman in the second round. The past 6 drafts have seen the Devils take a defenseman with their available second round pick (not including 2011 since they had no 2nd round pick available). I understand and recognize the importance for adding forward prospects to the cupboard for the Devils, but this does not mean you have to stop drafting defensemen altogether. Who knows though? With a new GM in town there may be a change to drafting tendencies (although I don’t think that’s too likely since no changes have been brought to the Scouting Department). However, this player profile is a player I’d like the Devils to strongly consider at 41 overall, if they are to take a defenseman. Without further ado…

Rasmus Andersson
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 212 lbs
Position:  RD
Shoots: R
Team (League): Barrie (OHL)
ISS rank: 107
CSS rank: 93 (NA Skaters)
FC rank: 50
THN rank: 44
Statline for 2014-2015 Season: 67 GP, 12G 52A 64P 88PIM, +14, 0.96 Points/Game

Where should I start with Andersson? Any Devils fans following Joseph Blandisi for the Barrie Colts of the OHL may have been able to get a glance at Rasmus Andersson. Andersson was 3rd overall in points by defensemen in the OHL, only behind 2013 2nd round Colorado selection, Chris Bigras, and 2014 1st round Tampa Bay selection, Anthony Deangelo.  According to Future Considerations draft guide, Andersson has the 3rd hardest shot out of the entire draft class. In his play this season, Andersson scored 4 game-winning goals, which was the most out of CHL draft-eligible defensemen and was also responsible for about 23% of his team’s total points, which is 3rd best out of all CHL draft-eligible defensemen, only behind Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL) Alexandre Carrier and Sudbury Wolves (OHL) Kyle Capobianco.

Selecting him at 41 might be a reach, but I believe the potential is there. In just his first season in the OHL, he has solidified himself, in my opinion, as the second or third best draft-eligible defenseman in the OHL, arguably behind Mitchell Vande Sompel and Vince Dunn. Before coming to North America, Andersson played in Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second-best professional league, as a 16 and 17 year old, and really didn’t look his age out there. In two seasons, he played 81 games in Allsvenskan and amassed 24 points in that time. His offensive potential is very impressive, and I feel that he will only improve from this point.

Andersson is a big-bodied defenseman who has a high-end offensive game. He scored close to a Point-Per-Game in his first season in the OHL, which is a testament to his hockey sense and IQ, and ability to quarterback the powerplay. He has a great first outlet pass out of the zone, and can make things happen offensively. One thing he’s had to work on in the past year was his overall quickness, which he has made significant steps (pun not intended) towards. His skating is not the most fluid, but he is capable of keeping up with speedy forwards and is able to win board battles with his big frame. He’s actually a very exceptional skater, with good lateral movement and solid edge-work. Personally I’d like to see him work on his top-end speed and overall acceleration.

In his own zone, Andersson is alert and hard-working. Things he must continue to work on are overall consistency in his own end, his off-the-puck reads in his zone, some more physicality in his own zone and better gap control, more fluidity in his skating, and more alert making better decisions without the puck in general. Sometimes he can make an ill-advised pinch in the offensive zone which may lead to an odd-man rush for the opposition.  That being said, I don’t believe any of these issues can’t be fixed through coaching. I know it’s a little cliché, but these defensive inconsistencies can be fixed by coaching, but he has the tremendous offensive potential that cannot be taught. While he does put up some great numbers, enough to be considered an offensive defenseman, I would still call him a two-way defender. For most of his shifts in the defensive zone, he’s not very noticeable, and I mean that in a good way.

Andersson is able to make solid passes through traffic, and has the potential to be a good steal, even at 41st overall. I’m sure any Devils fan reading this is thinking something along the lines of, “Why draft another offensive defenseman? We already have É
ric Gélinas.” To that I would respond that I like Andersson’s defensive game more than that of Gélinas. Andersson does have a good hard shot and runs the Powerplay effectively, also like Gélinas. However, I believe that Gélinas has the harder shot (may or may not be semantics) and will ultimately end up as a third-pairing defenseman / PP specialist. Gélinas’ defensive game has certainly improved over the last season, in my opinion, but I think that the two are just two different players. Andersson is very active in the rush and will oftentimes join the forwards in the rush to get more numbers against the defense.

To me, the best asset for Andersson is not his offensive ceiling, but rather his professional experience. As mentioned earlier he played in the second-highest Swedish professional league during his 15-16 year old season and was very solid. He put up points in about 30% of the games he played in. In fact, the biggest reason he even came over to play in the CHL was because he felt like he wasn’t getting enough ice-time in Malmo (his team for Allsvenskan). Amassing 81 professional games at that high of a level is very promising and puts Andersson in a good class of prospects. He is a hard-working all-around defenseman that, if and when he’s able to polish up his defensive game, has some very good skills that will translate well into the higher levels of professional hockey in North America. I see his ceiling as a 2nd pairing defenseman. A good player to compare stylistically, in my opinion, is Alex Pietrangelo.

Rasmus Andersson shows a lot of promising upside to his game, combined with the fact that this was only his first season playing in North America. He’s been flying under the radar of draft lists for almost the entire season. I know this is a very good draft year, and there are a lot of promising defensemen, but I’m not sure why Andersson isn’t higher ranked.

So that was my preview for the first three selections for the New Jersey Devils at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, on June 26th and 27th. I hope you enjoyed reading it! I will continue to write about prospects for this draft that I really like.

If you have any feedback or suggestions, feel free to let me know!

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@DTJ_AHockeyBlog for more updates.

Thanks for reading!

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