GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The rebuilding Rangers practiced amid the trade talk swirling around them with Monday’s deadline dead ahead. But a 20-year-old Swede wasn’t worrying about being shipped out.
“I feel like I belong up here,” Lias Andersson said Friday.
While Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello were drawing interest on the rental market, Andersson was talking about being a piece of the team’s future. The Rangers made him the seventh overall pick in the 2017 draft and have been trying to develop him into a consistent player.
They summoned him Thursday from Hartford for his second stint this season and played him as the fourth-line center in a 4-1 loss to Minnesota at the Garden.
“There’s a learning curve with all these players,” coach David Quinn said. “I thought [Thursday] night was as energetic and as confident as he’s looked.”
Andersson was happy to be back, saying: “Here’s where I want to be and here’s where I develop best . . . I want to be a part of this team for a long time.”
After being called up for the final seven games last season, he became the youngest Ranger to score in his NHL debut at 19 years, 164 days. Then he won the Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award as the top rookie in training camp. But the Rangers sent him down.
After they brought him up Nov. 5, he had a goal and three assists in 21 games and was sent down Dec. 28.
“It was tough,” Andersson said. “I’ve been working a lot off the ice for the most part, getting stronger and getting faster.”
But his AHL season stats for the struggling Wolf Pack aren’t impressive: 36 games, six goals, 14 assists, minus-24.
“I think it’s both me and on the team,” Andersson said.
Quinn doesn’t want him skating with the words “seventh overall pick” rattling around inside his helmet.
“I think the pressure he feels and puts on himself about where he got drafted and the expectations and all of the things that have been said sometimes get in the way of his performance,” Quinn said. “He’s just got to be the best player he can possibly be and not think about meeting expectations.”
Notes & quotes: Defenseman Adam McQuaid (upper body) practiced . . . Will those players who could be traded face the Devils on Saturday at the Garden? Said Quinn, “Guys that are on the roster will be in the lineup until I’m told differently.” . . . Center Brett Howden (knee) practiced in a non-contact jersey. Quinn said he could be available in “probably a week to 10 days.”