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With Lias Andersson back with the Rangers, he joins Jesper Fast as Swedish players drafted by the New York Rangers who are with the team. Since selecting Fast in 2010 the Rangers have drafted nine Swedes. How have they fared?
The New York Rangers have a distinguished history of drafting Swedish players. The best late round draft pick ever was future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist, selected 205th overall in the seventh round in 2000. Other Swedes who made to the NHL as Rangers include Carl Hagelin, Niklas Sundstrom, Kim Johnsson Jan Erixon, Peter Sundstrom, Kjell Samuelsson, Ulf Dahlen and Tomas Sandstrom.
Lias Andersson was a first round selection, picked #7 overall in 2017. Andersson won the Lars Sjoberg Award as best rookie in training camp this season, but was unexpectedly sent to Hartford to start the season when he was beaten out of a starting job by Brett Howden. He has nine points in eleven AHL games and was called up to replace the injured Howden. He did a solid job in his season debut against Montreal. The question is how long he will stay with the big club.
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in 2018 the Rangers went the Swedish route again in the first round, selecting defenseman Nils Lundkvist with the 28th selection. Lundkvist, who just turned 18, is having a strong season playing for Lulea in the Swedish Hockey League, the top league in Sweden. In 16 games he is 1-5-6 while averaging about 12 minutes of ice time per game. He has been assigned to the the Swedish National Under 20 team and has played five games with one assist.
In the third round, the Rangers took Jacob Ragnarsson, another young Swedish defenseman. The 19 year old is on the roster of the Almtuna team in the Allsvenskan League, the second professional tier in Sweden. Scoreless in six games, he recently joined Lundkvist on the Swedish National Under 20 team.
Also taken in the 2018 draft was 6th round pick Simon Kjellberg, an 18 year old defenseman who has come over from the Junior Super Elit league in Sweden to play in the USHL for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. He has one assist in 13 games after participating in the Rangers development camp this summer.
In 2017 the Rangers drafted Calle Sjalin in the fifth round. He is a 19 year old defenseman playing for Leksand in the Allsvenskan league. He is also assigned to the Swedish Under 20 national Junior team, but is injured with a broken bone.
The Swedish National Under 20 team with Lundkvist, Ragnarsson and Sjalin will will play a 4-national tournament in the Czech Republic next week. Participating countries are Finland, Russia, Sweden and the Czech Republic.
The controversial pick
Goalie Olaf Lindbom was a controversial second round pick in 2018. A highly regarded netminder, he is playing for Djurgardens in the J20 SuperElit Norra League, one of the top junior leagues in Sweden. He got off to a slow start due to injury and has appeared in only two games with a 2.89 GAA and 89% Save Percentage. His record is 1-1.
Taken 39th overall, his selection raised the ire of many Ranger fans who felt that there were a number of better options available and the last thing the team needed was another goaltender. The first goalie taken in the 2018 draft, this pick will debated for years to come unless Lindbom lives up to the expectations.
These didn’t work out
There are three earlier draft picks who appear to have no future as Rangers. Daniel Bernhardt was a fourth round pick in 2015. He is a forward currently playing in the Allsvenkan league. He’s had a few opportunities in the SHL. but wasn’t able to stick.
Defenseman Calle Andersson was a fourth round pick in 2012 and is currently playing professionally in Switzerland.
The Rangers had high hopes for Robin Kovacs. Ranked in the top 20 European skaters in the 2015 Entry Draft, he was selected in the third round. He signed a three year contract with the Rangers in 2016. He played one full season in Hartford, but his contract was terminated before the 2017-18 season and he returned to Sweden. There was little explanation except that he had issues adapting to North American hockey. A better explanation was that he was affected by an accident that summer. He was reportedly racing his best friend on a highway in Sweden when they had an accident and his friend was killed. Kovacs was investigated, but no charges were ever filed. He is now a teammate of Nils Lundkvist with Lulea of the SHL.
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Drafting and developing prospects is always a risky proposition. The hope is that at least some of these young players will make it to the NHL with the Rangers. We’ll continue to follow and report on these future Rangers on Blue Line Station.