Flames' Andersson serves up powerful reminder of potential 2021 impact

Calgary Flames defenceman Rasmus Andersson spoke about finding another level to his game how hungry the team is for a championship this season.

It took all of 80 seconds into the team’s first intrasquad scrimmage for Rasmus Andersson to serve up a powerful reminder of just how prominent a role he’ll play for the Calgary Flames this season.

Seconds into Team McDonald’s first power play of the night, the 24-year-old Swede had the draw snapped back to him at the blue line where he took a few strides before unleashing one the hardest clappers on the team.

It’s a sequence that will be played out countless times over the next handful of years, as Andersson appears poised to run Calgary’s top power play this season.

Yes, with the departure of T.J. Brodie it became all but official – it’s Andersson’s time.

“I feel ready and excited for it – I’m excited to show the coaching staff I’m the man for the job,” said Andersson prior to the club’s first of two camp scrimmages aimed at simulating game night.

“To me it’s all about taking care of the opportunity and making the most of it, showing them I can play up there. It’s a position all defencemen want. I felt personally I played pretty good in the playoffs and I want to take that confidence with me into this season.”

Andersson has opened camp paired with good friend Noah Hanifin, as he was in last year’s playoffs and various other times the last two seasons. The top pairing is Mark Giordano with Chris Tanev, largely so brass can see how well they kill penalties together.

Those pairings are subject to change, perhaps often, as it’s anticipated Andersson will get the plum assignment Brodie left behind, alongside Giordano. It’s befitting the six-year, $27.3-million extension he signed last year.

Either way, his role as the lone defenceman on the top power play unit was listed as highly probable once Erik Gustafsson signed with Philadelphia.

Giordano had run the power play for years, and will undoubtedly run the second unit, but at age 37 the team needs to find ways to manage his minutes.

Andersson’s heavy shot, poise with the puck and calm demeanour make him the best candidate.

“Me and (coach Geoff) Ward have good communication and we’ve talked about it quite a bit likely - I told him the most comfortable position for me is at the top because I’ve played it all my life,” said Andersson of his blueline perch directing traffic, distributing pucks and, well, firing away.

“I’ve got to bring the puck up the ice with a lot of purpose and try to give as much space to Johnny (Gaudreau), Monny (Sean Monahan), Chucky (Matthew Tkachuk) and Lindy (Elias Lindholm) and when I have the opportunity to shoot I take it. I want to show everybody I can play the position well. I feel great they put the confidence in me and I’m going to show them every night I’m the guy.”

He certainly started well Thursday evening — adding a wraparound goal for good measure — making his ascension one of the biggest stories of camp.


Early scouting report on the man who arrived in camp from Russia to be the team’s sixth defenceman, Nikita Nesterov: “The game is easy for him. You can tell he’s played an awful lot of hockey. He’s played in the NHL before and you can see he’s a confident defenceman who understands exactly what he brings to a team and plays within those parameters.”

The five-foot-11, 192-pound 27-year-old was a fifth-round pick of the Lighting in 2011 who played 160 NHL games before returning Russia for a three-year stint in which he captained the national team, won Olympic gold and a KHL title.

The left-shooting veteran has a one-way contract and will likely play on the right side, opposite Juuso Valimaki to start the season. On Thursday he appeared as comfortable as Ward suggested.

His chief competition for the sixth spot comes from college free-agent signing Connor Mackey and Oliver Kylington, who both have experience playing on the right side. Kylington is still in quarantine following immigration holdups, and won’t join the team until after the second/final scrimmage Monday

Newbies Dominik Simon and Josh Leivo split time on the right side of Monahan and Gaudreau’s line. Simon is known as a tenacious forechecker who can dig pucks out for top scorers like Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh, but he also has a pretty slick set of mitts. Leivo made a sweet pass from behind the net to set Matthew Tkachuk up for a nice finish. He’s a large man who should be a good fit at both ends

Team McDonald wound up beating Team Iginla 5-2. The goal scorers included Joakim Nordstrom (two including empty netter), Monahan, Tkachuk and Andersson for the winners and Emilio Pettersen and Andrew Mangiapane for the losers. David Rittich went the distance in net to outlast Jacob Markstrom.

One of the prettiest plays of the night came courtesy of 21-year-old Adam Ruzicka, who pulled up goal-side with a nifty move to dish up an easy finish for 20-year-old Pettersen.

Mangiapane, perhaps the best candidate for a breakout season, made no mistake in alone to beat Markstrom.

It’s always interesting to see how five-foot-seven, 155-pound Matthew Phillips looks against NHL giants. A great example of how he was able to be successful in the AHL the last two years came in the second period when six-foot-two, 202-pound Eetu Tuulola was draped all over the youngster, who still wouldn’t cough up the puck.


Mark Giordano seamlessly took over from Jarome Iginla many years ago as the fittest Flame. However, with abbreviated camps came abbreviated fitness testing.

Unlike past years when players have been put through a series of different tests, this year’s testing revolved largely around force plate jumps, which measure the power generated when an athlete jumps vertically. It has put the 37-year-old’s title belt in question, and he doesn’t seem very happy about it.

“Some guys are trying to claim they won fitness testing based on the force plate jumps, but there’s a lot more to fitness than that,” said Giordano, whose club won’t release testing results this year due to their simplicity. Very few are actually questioning whether the former Norris Trophy winner is still the fittest.

The game was also a warmup for game night production staff who added goal songs, light shows and announcements, including a directive to observe a moment of silence for fallen Calgary Sgt. Andrew Harnett, who was killed New Year's Eve by a driver fleeing a traffic stop. The game was played with a constant din of crowd noise that sounded like a clothes dryer when it wasn’t punctuated with louder reactions.

Sam Bennett was kept from the game for precautionary reasons and is listed as day-to-day. The team brought in local NHL officials for the game, relieving assistant GM Craig Conroy of the gig he had in last summer’s pre-playoff camp. The Flames are off Friday.

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