CHICAGO - After acquiring the seventh overall pick from Arizona earlier in the day, the Rangers selected Swedish center Lias Andersson from in Friday's NHL Draft in Chicago.
"It surprised me a little bit," Andersson told reporters after his name was called at United Center. "There are many good players left in the draft, so it was a lot of fun" to be taken by the Rangers.
Andersson spent last season with HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League where he registered nine goals and 10 assists in 42 games. He ranked second among junior players in the SHL in goals, assists and was tied for second among juniors in points.
He added four goals and an assist in 16 playoff games to help lead HV71 to a Le Mat Trophy as the SHL Champions.
The 18-year-old described himself as a two-way center who loves to "change games and score big goals." He said he'd also described himself as a leader on the ice and that he patterns his game after Chicago's Jonathan Toews and Philadelphia's Claude Girioux.
"He's a helluva player," said Gordie Clark, the Rangers' Director of Player Personnel. "We've really needed a certain kind of player to add into our organization. This guy's work ethic, his ability, you're going to love him. Fans are going to love him. He's got the combination of grit and ability that we've been looking for."
Clark said Andersson's experience of playing in the SHL would benefit him down the road and possibly allow him to come to North America earlier than other draftees. He also said his style is more NHL-ready than other Europeans.
"He's not a dynamic scorer. He's a dynamic player," Clark said. "The way that he plays - he's just so driven. Driving to the net, forechecking, finishing checks and he can make a pass, make a play."
While he's never been to New York, he has connections to the city. His father, Niklas, spent parts of six seasons in the NHL, including a stop with the Islanders, where he met his wife and Lias' mother.
The second connection is also a big one. Andersson's father was teammates with a young Henrik Lundqvist in Frolunda.
"I actually know him a little bit," said a smiling Andersson. "My dad played with him for some years. It'll be good to see him again. He's one of the biggest stars Sweden hockey ever had. It just feels amazing [to be in the same organization as Lundqvist]."
He may have just been drafted, but Andersson is already looking ahead to next season, though that could include a return to Sweden.
"My goal is to play in the NHL," he said. "I know it's tough, but if I don't make it I can play in the American League or back home in Sweden. We'll figure something good out."