Written by Ryan Dittrick (Via Flames.com)
NASHVILLE – Composure is a currency rarely in short supply for the easygoing, 21-year-old Rasmus Andersson.
When he was told he was making his 2018-19 Flames debut tonight against the reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners, in one of the NHL’s most daunting territories, no less, the freshman blueliner took it in stride, flashing a smile the size of Broadway.
It’s the opportunity he’s been waiting for.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It will be a lot of fun out there.
“I just have to play simple off the start. Get the first few shifts under my belt and take it from there. They’re a good team over there, so I’ve got to be ready.”
Andersson, who has only 10 career NHL games to his name, has quite the test in front of him.
The Preds won a franchise record 53 games one year ago, and are already off to a perfect, 2-0 start.
The trial-by-fire baptism is intriguing to head coach Bill Peters. He believes it’s what Andersson – the latest in a long line of promising young defencemen in the organization – needs to elevate his game and enter the next phase of his development.
“It’s good. There’s not a lot of time (to make plays),” he explained. “Hopefully there’s lots of communication back there. I know Smitty’s real good at handling the puck, so when those D are talking to him and having him execute, it makes our lives a little easier.
“You’ve got to play quick. There has to be a lot of pace in your game.”
Andersson, a 6-foot-1, 215-lb. force, had a strong showing in the pre-season and nearly stuck with the big club out of camp, but veteran Dalton Prout ultimately won the job as the seventh defenceman.
Rather than have Andersson sit as an extra and watch games from the press box, head coach Bill Peters wanted him to play meaningful minutes with the Stockton Heat.
That was the plan, anyway.
An opening-night injury to Travis Hamonic forced the Flames’ hand and a call down to the farm was made.
“It’s nice to be the first call-up,” Andersson said. “Now I’ve got to prove that I want to be here full time, and that starts tonight by the moving the puck quick, joining the rush and playing simple.
“I feel more and more comfortable with each game I play.
“It starts with just making simple plays and once you get a few shifts under your belt, you can get into a rhythm. You’ve just got to take it from there and build off it.”
Andersson had nine goals and 39 points in 56 regular-season games with the Heat last year – a 17-point improvement over the previous campaign when he recorded 22 (3G, 19A) as a rookie.
While the offensive side is a nice touch, his greatest asset is his ability to move the puck under pressure.
That’s an area both he and Juuso Valimaki – who will be his partner tonight – can help dial in with a good effort on the road.
“They move the puck,” Peters said, “and we weren’t very good in transition with our first pass on Saturday.
“We want to be better at that tonight.”