From July to May – Lias Andersson’s long journey continuesLONG JOURNEY. Lias Andersson’s season started in July and is still on-going. Photo: Bildbyrån/Ludvig Thunman
How much hockey can you play without getting burned out? If you are to believe Lias Andersson, there’s no upper limit. And he should know. The 19 year-old New York Rangers’ prospect finished last season in late April by winning the Swedish Championship title with HV71. After that, he was off for one month before diving into the hockey bubble once again.
While other players used their summer to heal their bodies and prepare for the upcoming season, Andersson was thrown into an endless period of travel.
“The summer was pretty intense”, he said with a smile as Elite Prospects met him during his preparations for the World Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark.
So let’s recap his crazy summer of 2017:
First, he was off to the NHL Combine in Buffalo where the draft eligible players are tested and interviewed by the teams, then it was the NHL draft in Chicago, where he was chosen 7th overall by the Rangers. After that, a development camp with the Blueshirts that was followed by a camp and the World Junior Summer Showcase with the Swedish U20 team in Plymouth, Michigan in late July. Less than a month later, he went to the Rangers’ camp and the rookie tournament in Traverse City before heading to main camp before finally being loaned to Frölunda of the SHL and heading home to Gothenburg.
Let’s take a moment to breathe before proceeding…
“I think I had four or five trips to North America and obviously it affects you”, Lias Andersson said. “You might not miss too many practices because you get to play so much hockey. But it’s all the flying that makes you tired. You get jet-laged and it kind of drains you.”
It was the price Lias Andersson had to pay. When the season started, he didn’t feel like himself on the ice.
“I felt tired right from the start, when you’re supposed to be energized and ready to go. It was bad timing with everything happening at once, but that’s what everyone goes through during their draft year”, he said. “I felt drained. There were a lot of new impressions and I had been traveling all summer long. I felt I couldn’t play my game at camp. It wasn’t like I sucked, but I didn’t play the way I wanted to.”
Photo: Bildbyrån/Ludvig Thunman
His performance at the rookie camp wasn’t what the Rangers had expected either. Gordie Clark, Director of Player Personnel, criticized Andersson after the rookie tournament in Traverse City.
“He had a very average camp. He might be tired or something, but he’s going to need to be better when the main camp starts”, Clark told MSG Network in September.
And yes, Lias Andersson was tired.
“Getting that criticism in media probably didn’t help my confidence as I was already a bit down and worn ot. It was a bit of a bad start to the season”, he confessed.
After coming home to Sweden, he said it probably took him about six or severn games before he felt like himself again.
“Then I had a pretty good run before the World Juniors, scoring some goals and contributing with some points”, Lias Andersson said. “It was too bad I couldn’t continue to ride that wave. But things worked out anyway. In hindsight, I’m happy with all the experiences this has given me.”
There’s certainly been plenty of experiences for the young Swede this past year. Both good and bad. At the World Juniors, he hurt his shoulder in the last round-robin game against Russia on New Year’s Eve. Lias Andersson finished the tournament, but it was quite grueling.
“I was in a lot of pain”, he said. ” I couldn’t raise my arm. I really had to gut it out, take a lot of shots and pills. So it was bad and didn’t get any better from playing. It hurt, but I don’t regret playing. Not for one second.”
He explained that the main reason why he put himself through the agony was because helt felt there was something special about the Swedish team.
“We had such a great bunch of guys. You could really feel it was a special group that could achieve something extraordinary. And those playoff games are the best games you can experience as a player. It’s the best thing about hockey.”
Photo: Bildbyrån/Joel Marklund
Lias Andersson needed some time to heal after the tournament to recover from the injury, and maybe most of all recover from the disappointment it was to lose the gold medal game to Canada. Less than three weeks after that experience – remembered for Andersson’s infamous silver medal toss – he made his debut with the New York Rangers’ farm team Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL. The NHL club had decided to cancel their loan deal with Frölunda to let their prospect finish the season in North America. The long regular season came to a close with 25 games in the AHL and another seven in the NHL before he was invited to a try-out for the Swedish World Championship team.
Today, his shoulder feels better, but it’s not fully healed.
“It might not be what it used too, but it works. I need to tape the shoulder before every game, but I can play”, he explained and assured us that he won’t need surgery after the season. “No, I’ll just need to get some rehab done. It’s going to be a hundred percent next season for sure.”
So, after this whirlwind of a season where he has played on five different teams, how does Lias Andersson feel? Surprisingly good, it turns out.
“I’ve gained a lot of new experiences both on and off the ice. It’s mostly been fun, but kind of a roller coaster season with peaks and valley. That’s how I would summarize it”, he said.
And he hopes it’s going to be even more fun in Denmark. After the silver medal at the World Juniors, he gets a golden chance to put the disappointment behind him and end the season on a winning note.