The former seventh overall pick had a strong finish to the season with the LA Kings, and he appears to have a loose grip on a roster spot next year.
Acquired for a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, Lias Andersson was thankful for a fresh start with the LA Kings after a tumultuous time with the New York Rangers. The former seventh overall pick in the 2017 draft, taken four spots ahead of Gabe Vilardi, came to Los Angeles with just three goals in 66 career games.
Andersson indicated his plans had changed once traded, suggesting he would have remained in Sweden if he stayed in the Rangers organization. The 22-year-old scored his first goal as a member of the LA Kings on January 24. Andersson had just finished serving time in the box and caught a loose puck for a breakaway. Initially, he was denied, but a good second effort lit the lamp.
Lias Andersson handled himself well this season. After playing in 11 games with the NHL roster, the Swedish forward spent a good chunk of the next two months with the Ontario Reign of the AHL, except for a couple of games. He was recalled for good at the end of April, looking like a completely different player. Over the final 10 games, Andersson tallied a goal and three assists while seeing an increase in ice time.
On the year, he accounted for a 44.1 xGF%, which is right in line with the Kings’ 45.2 xGF% as a team. He showed moments of being a tenacious forward, getting into the ugly areas of the ice. Simply put, he did what was expected of him.
After his goal on January 24, Andersson went a lengthy stretch without making the box score. He’s probably in line for a switch from center to the wing, winning just 38.5 percent of faceoffs this season, which is lower than his career average of 44.3 in New York. More advanced metrics show he wasn’t great with puck possession, accounting for a 43.2 CorsiFor percentage and a career-high 57.6 defensive zone start percentage.
As tenacious as he plays, Andersson doesn’t do much physically. He registered just nine blocked shots and eight hits on the season. In the series finale against St. Louis, he took exception to Gabe Vilardi being shouldered at mid-ice and went after a significantly bigger Dakota Joshua. The latter made quick work of Andersson, but you have to love the effort.
Lias Andersson, along with Alex Iafallo and Vilardi, formed quite the trio over the several games, with four of those coming against the Colorado Avalanche. The three accounted for a 52.9 xGF% in just over 67 minutes of ice time together, per MoneyPuck.
The first order of business will be getting himself a new contract, as Andersson will become a restricted free agent when the league year ends. Evolving Hockey projects the 22-year-old getting a one-year deal worth just under $1M, which could end up being his last chance before becoming an unrestricted free agent.
I expect him to have a loose grip on the Kings line with Iafallo and Vilardi since those three played so well in a small sample size. However, next year will be critical for Andersson to produce. As a former seventh overall pick, he hasn’t met the expectations of a top-ten pick, so he’ll need to find more consistency and make the scoresheet more often than he did in 2021.