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CONFIDENT - CALM - POISED

Mark Giordano has plenty of praise for Rasmus Andersson. Flames.com's Ryan Dittrick sat down with the young defenceman for a Q&A on his summer, his thoughts on the compliments from his captain, and his outlook and goals for this season

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

Take it from a Norris winner. 

In his time at the helm, the wide-eyed lads have arrived en masse, turning heads and laying claim to some shred of the future.

Rasmus Andersson, though, did it without fanfare, and the man with the keen eye for talent - 36-year-old captain Mark Giordano - took note. 

"It's a big deal, a guy playing with that kind of confidence in his first year in this league," Giordano said. "It's not easy. 

"Nothing about this league is easy. 

"That said, and I speak a little bit from experience, it might even be a bigger challenge for a guy to come in and take another step the year after. That's something that all young players have to go through and deal with. Expectations are higher. 

"The thing is, I don't think there's a better-equipped guy than Rasmus.

"He's so calm, so poised out there. He plays with the kind of confidence you don't normally see in guys 21, 22 years old. 

"But Rasmus … He's different. And I fully expect him to take a big step this year and give our team an even bigger boost. 

"What we saw last year was just the beginning."

 

 

 

Andersson, naturally, beams when told of his skipper's flattering appraisal. 

For the head of his class - a man with more than 800 games on his resume - to be singing his praises means the world. 

But he also knows the responsibility that comes with it. 

No longer is he catching the hockey world by surprise. 

"That's the reality," the Swedish D man said. "It's only going to get tougher. 

"And that's the way I like it."

Andersson's 19 regular-season (2G, 17A) and three playoff (1G, 2A) points were a sign of his innate, offensive potential lurking in the shadows. 

He got better on both sides of the puck as the year went along, anchored the all-rookie third unit with either Juuso Valimaki and Oliver Kylington, and looked especially at home when - late in the year - he joined Giordano on the top pair and saw his minutes increase by a factor of two. 

What does Andersson have for an encore?

We sat down with the 22-year-old to discuss the upcoming season and the pressure of repeating of the gold standard he set for himself:

DITTRICK: Rasmus, first off, welcome back. How was your summer?

ANDERSSON: It was great. Nice to be home, obviously. I went to Spain for a week with my dad, brother and a few friends of mine. We relaxed, had a fun time. But other than that, I spent most of my time at home in Sweden, playing some golf, working out, and hanging out with my friends and family.

DITTRICK: What does your summer training schedule look like? Do you typically take a lot of time off the ice?

ANDERSSON: I took like two or three weeks off right when we got home after the season to let the body recover. But after that, we got right back into it and worked out Monday through Saturday, every week since. Different stuff every day. We've got a small group that we like to get together - Andre Burakovsky is the only other NHLer there - so we're lucky to have that and get the gym alone to ourselves with our strength trainer. It was a good summer back home, and I feel fresh and ready to go.

 

 

DITTRICK: It was obviously a tough way to end the season for the team, but how do you look back on last year, personally? Did you ever take a moment and kind of say, 'Wow, I really did this?!' in what was your first year?

ANDERSSON: I thought I had a pretty good season last year with my consistency. Everybody can have good games, good weeks, or even good months, but to be able to string it together for an entire season is the goal. I thought I did that well and was able to earn the trust of the coaches. Now, coming in this year, I kind of know what to expect - but, at the same time, you want to take another step, too. You want to play more. You want to play more special teams and it all starts with a good training camp. If I have that, I'm going to make it as hard as I can for the coaching staff.

DITTRICK: Special teams … Do you feel that's area of your game that's untapped right now? 

ANDERSSON: For sure. But there are so many skilled players on both the powerplay and penalty-kill at this level, I'm sure a lot of young guys would say the same thing. You've got to earn it. If you get the opportunity, which I got in the last 20 or so games last year, you've got to make the most of it. You want to play as much as possible. That's why you play, and that's an area I feel I can really excel at.

 

 

DITTRICK: What was the adjustment like last year when you got to play on the top pair with Gio?

ANDERSSON: You play against the best players when you play with Gio. That's probably the biggest thing. You've got to know that if you play with Gio, it's going to be a tough night. No shifts off. So, there's a mental aspect to it as well. He's such a good player, so you adjust your game a little bit, like trying to give him the puck a bit more and things like that. I found the experience kind of eye-opening. Yeah, it's more difficult because you're playing bigger minutes and are always going up against the best players, but you're also playing with your best players, too. They make it easier, help make you more comfortable, so you can go out and have success.

DITTRICK: You started the year playing 10, 12 minutes a night and by the end of the year, you had nights where you hit 22, 23. When you got that increase in responsibility, how did you handle the increase in workload? 

ANDERSSON: For me, it's not necessarily about the minutes, but your ability to get into the game from the beginning. If there's a lot of PK and PP at the start of a game, and you're on the third pair and don't play special teams, it's hard to get your feet and brain going. But if it's a 5-on-5 first period, you're into the game automatically. For me, the workload didn't feel all that different whether it's 10, 15 or 20 minutes a night - it was all about how I get into it that, I feel, set up the kind of night I was going to have.

DITTRICK: Lastly, I have to ask about Gio. What was it like to have him sort of take you under his wing - but, maybe more importantly, just being around that type of player and personality in his first year in the league?

ANDERSSON: It's every-day thing with Gio. Not a day went by last year that I didn't learn something. Whether it's on the ice or in the gym, you see him going out and doing this, and this, and this. So, I sit back and say, 'Well, now I've got to do this, and this, this.' It's hard to see and describe from above just how good he really is, but when you see him on the ice every day, how good of a teammate and just an overall good guy he is, it's pretty amazing. We're so lucky to have him in Calgary. 

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