Hockey is a family business for Lias Andersson.
"I was born with hockey," said Andersson, a top prospect for the 2017 NHL Draft. "From the first day when I stepped on the ice I enjoyed it."
Andersson, who plays for HV 71 in the Swedish Hockey League, is the third generation of his family to play professionally. His father, Niklas Andersson, was a fourth-round pick (No. 68) of the Quebec Nordiques in the 1989 draft and played 164 NHL games with five teams in six seasons, and also played 12 seasons with Frolunda in Sweden. His uncle, Mikael Andersson, played 15 NHL seasons with five teams. And his grandfather, Ronny Andersson, was a goaltender for seven seasons in Sweden.
Lias' father, Niklas, playing for the New York Islanders in 1997
Lias Andersson, 18, could be the strongest branch on the family hockey tree.
"He is a really skilled two-way forward with great moves with the puck," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "He shows very good attitude, works hard both ways, smooth hands, very effective in the offensive zone as he can both shoot and create scoring chances for linemates."
Andersson (5-foot-11, 198 pounds), an A-rated skater on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list, has two goals and four assists in 11 games this season. Last season he led Sweden's under-20 league with 59 points and was third with 24 goals in 37 games. He also helped Sweden win the silver medal at the 2016 IIHF World Under-18 Championship; his five goals and nine points in seven games were second on the team.
He made his SHL debut last season, playing 22 regular-season and four playoff games.
What stood out most to him was the strength of the players he was skating against.
"In the juniors back home in Sweden I thought I was pretty strong," Andersson said. "But when I come up to the big guys I realize that I'm not so strong. I just try to work hard every day so I can't get run over by those guys."
That strength was on early display in August during the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Plymouth, Michigan. In four games against the United States, Finland and Canada, Andersson tied for the lead of Sweden with three assists and was tied for second with 10 shots on goal.
The camp is one of the first steps in picking the team that will play for Sweden at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.
"I think he was our best center the first three games," Sweden coach Tomas Monten said. "He's a little bit bigger, he's a little bit stronger, he can play on the inside a bit more. He's a strong faceoff guy. Also he's an offensive player as well."
Andersson said he wants to continue getting stronger and improve his skating.
"SHL is a pretty fast league, and there in the World Juniors it'll be a fast tournament," he said. "Try to work on my footwork and my speed and my conditioning. … I've been working so much on my legs and core training so I can protect the puck well so they don't just take me down. Try to protect the puck so I can take it to the net and be strong at the net."
Andersson still is finding his way against older competition in the SHL but said his goal this season is to be an impact player in the league. For any motivation he can use a few of his father's old teammates with Frolunda as role models.
"I'm good friends with some guys, Loui Eriksson, Erik Karlsson, some of those NHL players who played with my dad," he said. "I practice with them in the summer. Seeing them practice, work so hard every day, it's so fun and exciting for me."