Another teenager producing well in the professional ranks in Europe, Lias Andersson probably isn’t getting the respect he deserves. Playing in the professional leagues as a teenager naturally suppresses point totals in comparison to players still playing in junior, but sometimes it seems that not everyone making the immediate mental adjustments – cautioning against being disappointed by his production, when we should be thrilled by it instead.
Though he’s slightly under 6-feet, Andersson has the strength and body type that North American executives covet, and a goal scorer’s skillset to go along with it. He has demonstrated the ability to dominate at times playing a power game. His success against men playing a style that should translate well to North American hockey should give him one of the highest floors of anything available in the draft, and there’s plenty of upside there too. Andersson checks in at number 14 on our list.
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Bio

  • Age: 18 – October 13th, 1998
  • Birthplace: Smogen, SWE
  • Frame: 5’11″ / 201 lbs
  • Position: Centre/Left Wing
  • Handedness: Left
  • Draft Year Team: HV71
  • Accomplishments/Awards: SHL Champion (16/17); U18 WJC Silver Medal, Hlinka Memorial Silver Medal (15/16); U17 WHC Bronze Medal (14/15)

Stats

Career

2016-17 Season

Adjusted Scoring (SEAL)

Lias Andesson is one of the highest rated players by SEAL adjusted scoring available in this draft. Putting up nearly a half-point per game in the SHL at his age while sticking there all season is pretty remarkable, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The league adjustments had a lot to do with it, but Andersson scored a ton of his points at even strength – again impressive given his age.

Cohort Based (pGPS)

Scouts

A smart, mature, two-way center…good decision-making, leadership qualities and advanced understanding of the game…a true three-zone player…defensively responsible…will drop to block shots or get his body in passing lanes…dangerous forechecker who reads the defense and uses an active stick to disrupt…covers up the ice for his teammates on the backcheck and always gives an honest effort…doesn’t commit a lot of mistakes and plays a very calm game while in puck possession…has solid offensive instincts…protects the puck very well and uses all of his frame to hold opponents off the puck…possesses a nice, quick shot release…not a flashy puckhandler, but can carry it up ice and distributes it well…goes to the net and plays in traffic…has solid vision and the ability to set up his linemates…has good balance and generates healthy amounts of speed…a potential two-way guy in the Zetterberg mold.
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From the Hockey Prospect Black Book (Excerpt from publication):
A solid forward who has played both center and wing. Andersson is a very good playmaker who has the ability to drive the play. He is an aggressive player who often wins races for loose pucks and he is adept at one on one battles. His wrist shot and one-timer are excellent, both pack some bigtime punch. He’s a player who could excel on an NHL power play.
From Corey Pronman of ESPN (Excerpt only – full article behind pay wall):
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He won’t dazzle with high-end dekes, but there is a lot of skill to Andersson’s game. He makes quick decisions, has a quick shot, sees his options well and has good puck skills. Andersson might be below average in size, but he’s tough and strong for a player his age, and he can kill penalties adequately.
From Jimmy Hamrin of McKeen’s Hockey (Excerpt only – full article behind pay wall):
Lias Andersson is a good bet to make the NHL on a regular basis. Depending on his future development I can see him becoming anything from a second line center to a bottom six center for an NHL team and being effective in any of those roles. He has the offensive drive, the shot and good enough skills to suggest him reaching the level of being a second line center at the highest level. He lacks the high end offensive talent necessary to be a first line center. For the upcoming draft I would be surprised if he is not a first round pick and would look about righ anywhere in the top 20. He is a safer bet than Liljegren or Pettersson as he is not as raw and is a bit further ahead in his development as of today but he does not have the same level of top skills and high end potential as those two.
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One of the few forward prospects who played consistent minutes for a contending adult team, Andersson showcased more creativity and puck skills at several best-on-best tournaments while manning one of Sweden’s top two lines. He’s a 200-foot battler with soft hands and makes smart decisons while motoring up ice. Andersson is a virtual lock for a lengthy NHL career, and his style of play can fit any system.
Andersson is a mature, two-way center who can occasionally fill in on the wing. He had a strong rookie season in the SHL, finishing with 19 points in 42 games for a talented HV71 club. Andersson has run the gauntlet of international competition with aplomb, placing among Sweden’s leaders in goals and points at the last WJC and U18 world championship. A shifty, elusive player with good acceleration who is quick on his feet and a has knack for making something out of nothing, Andersson has a ton of upside considering how well he fared as a teenager on a good team in an adult league. He has a very good shot, mainly for his release and accuracy rather than sheer power. Playing inside is something he’ll do with regularity, and Andersson’s proven to snap off a quick shot while cutting across or in full stride.

Our Take

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Lias Andersson is one of my favourite prospects in this draft. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been the one covering the majority of the European prospects on this list, and there’s a reason for that: teenagers playing in high-end professional leagues in Europe generally have the deck stacked in their favour, even if they’re just along for the ride. But if they’re putting up serious points in one of Europe’s best leagues, then watch out.
One of the more amusing things that I have read in preparation for this draft is this excerpt from The Hockey News Draft Preview:
The fact that [Andersson] is playing in the Swedish League has prevented him from putting up big numbers, but he has done well internationally when playing with players his own age. “As a younger player, he had more offensive talent than you’re seeing now,” said a scout. “He may have moved up a little too quickly and may not have been able to show us just how good he can be.”
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I find it both amusing and alarm that some industry folk still feel the need to excuse “low” production from teenagers in elite leagues. I’d just assumed at this point that people who regularly tracked prospects were already mentally adjusting for professional leagues as opposed to the junior level. The fact that a scout doesn’t consider 19 points as a 17-year old in the second best European professional an example of how good someone is seems a little odd to me. Almost as if those 19 points are a little lackluster in some way.
In actuality, only eight players since 1981 have scored 19 or more points in the SHL in their draft seasons, and it’s a pretty impressive list:
Name
Pos
Season
GP
G
A
Pts
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Markus Naslund
LW
1991
32
10
9
19
Daniel Sedin
LW
1999
50
21
21
42
Henrik Sedin
C
1999
49
12
22
34
Robert Nilsson
LW/RW
2003
41
8
13
21
Nicklas Backstrom
C
2006
46
10
16
26
Victor Hedman
D
2009
43
7
14
21
Elias Lindholm
C/RW
2013
48
11
19
30
Lias Andersson
C/LW
2017
42
9
10
19
Each one of these players has played at least 200 NHL games, with one exception: Lias Andersson himself. I’d say 19 points is actually a pretty lofty total. Now, Andersson isn’t expected to become the next Nicklas Backstrom or another Sedin, we’re simply illustrating the relativity of point totals here – but I think it’s safe to say that Andersson has indeed showcased some offensive capabilities here.
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Andersson was one of the most productive junior-aged players in the SHL last season, comparing favourably to previously drafted players like Toronto prospect Carl Grundstrom (57th overall, 2016), Buffalo prospect Rasmus Asplund (33rd overall, 2016), and Minnesota prospect Joel Eriksson Ek (20th overall, 2015).
 
Granted, Joel Eriksson Ek was limited to just 26 games in the SHL because he was also busy putting up 7 points in 15 games for the Minnesota Wild – but Andersson still had him beat in 5-on-5 points per 60 minutes, which also bodes very well.
Averaging 13:37 per game (and 14:39 in the playoffs), Andersson cemented himself in the top six on not just any pro team, but on HV71, the team that won the SHL championship this spring.
Andersson doesn’t just impress us with how many points he produces, but the way in which he scores. He has a full toolkit of skills, including plenty of flash, but he also has the ability to muscle his way straight to the net. Consider the first goal in the following video:
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These are the types of maneuvers that make fans and general managers alike salivate. At the age of 18, Andersson has demonstrated that he can power his way past men, but the strength part of his game doesn’t end there. He has an insatiable desire to recover pucks in all three zones and wins a disproportionate number of one on one battles given his size – further evidence that strength and body density is usually more important that height.
There are a handful of flashier players in this draft, but there aren’t many that I can say with certainty are going to have longer and more successful NHL careers than Lias Andersson. We’ve got him at 14th, but don’t be surprised if he’s off the board before the top ten is complete. His foundation of skills should guarantee that he’ll provide at least some value to the NHL team that picks him, and from there the only way to go is up.
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