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Prospect Profile: Axel Andersson
By Thomas Harrington
On February 21st, the Anaheim Ducks traded Ondrej Kase to the Boston Bruins. One of the pieces they received was a defensive prospect, Axel Andersson. The Bruins had chosen Andersson in the second round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, 57th overall.
Andersson is a Swedish-born player who has spent most of his career playing in various Swedish leagues, including the SuperElit and Allsvenskan. In the year after he was drafted, Andersson played in 41 games for Sodertalje SK in the Allsvenskan and recorded five assists. He also played in two games for Djurgardens IF J20 in the SuperElit and went scoreless. In eight playoff games with them, he had one assist.
This past season, Andersson came over to North America and played for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL. When the Ducks acquired him, Andersson was on IR. He returned for two games at the end of February and then was injured again. As a result of the QMJHL season being canceled, he didn’t play in any more games. Overall, Andersson appeared in 43 games and scored three goals and 24 points. He didn’t put up great numbers in his first season in North America, but Moncton was one of the deepest teams in the QMJHL, so the ice time was a little more spread out and he wasn’t counted on to be a big-time contributor. However, despite missing so much time, he still finished fourth in scoring by a defenseman on the Wildcats.
In obtaining Andersson, Anaheim addressed a vital need in their prospect system, a right-handed shooting defenseman. In the NHL, the Ducks have Josh Manson, Erik Gudbranson, and Jani Hakanpaa; in their prospect pipeline, the Ducks have Hunter Drew, William Francis, Steven Ruggiero, and now Andersson. Of those four prospects, Andersson has, far and away, the highest ceiling. Adding him has really improved that group. He’s a good skater who has a high hockey IQ.
As long as the 2020-2021 season happens, Andersson will be playing his first season of professional hockey in North America, likely with the San Diego Gulls. I’m doubtful he sees time in Anaheim, though it could happen, and I’m really hoping he doesn’t get sent down to the ECHL, but that’s always a possibility, especially for young players if they struggle and need time to find their game. My hope is that he plays and thrives in San Diego. Depending on what moves Anaheim makes during the offseason, and what players are ready for a full-time NHL job, there could be spots available in the Gulls’ top four for a player like Andersson to step in and grab. If he can do that, it will be a great sign for his future. If he struggles and plays more on the bottom pairing or is the team’s seventh defenseman, well, that will be a sign that he’s a young player struggling to adjust to pro hockey. It happens to many of them, and it remains to be seen if Andersson will or not.
In terms of his NHL future, Andersson won’t ever be a top-pairing player in the NHL, but he could become a solid player on the second pairing who gets some powerplay time. As a right-handed shot, if he can really develop his offensive instincts, he could end up getting prime powerplay time in a few years.
Similar to Bryce Kindopp, I don’t think we’ll see Andersson in the NHL this coming season. Give him a year in the AHL to adjust to the pro game and see where he’s at. The Ducks are pretty set on defense and have a number of young defensemen fighting for a spot on the team’s bottom pair. However, the fact that Andersson is a right-handed shot is the one reason why he might get some NHL time at some point this year. I don’t think it will happen, but if Manson gets injured, and Gudbranson and/or Hakapaa get traded to bring more young assets or draft picks to the team, then there could be a spot for Andersson to step into. It could happen, but I think it’s more likely he spends the year in San Diego, and as long as he develops, he’ll get some NHL games in the 2021-2022 season, with a shot at a full-time roster spot in the 2022-2023 season.
Expectations are hard to set for this coming season, primarily because the future feels so in flux right now. Assuming the season happens, my big hope for Andersson is that he establishes himself in San Diego’s top four and doesn’t see any time in the ECHL. I’d also like to see him really develop his game on the powerplay and became a big factor with the man advantage. If he can do those two things, it will be a successful season for him.
A week after being drafted, the Boston Bruins signed Andersson to his entry-level contract. Because of his time in Europe and then in juniors, it has not officially begun, but it will next season. It runs for three seasons and he’ll be a restricted free agent when it’s over. It’s impossible to predict what kind of contract he’ll get in three years, but given how coveted right-handed shooting defensemen are, I fully expect Anaheim to re-up him in three years.
With the prospect profiles now complete, it’s time to move on to the prospect updates. First, up will be Josh Mahura.
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July 13th, 2020