CHICAGO — With their two first-round picks in the NHL draft on Friday night at United Center, the Rangers took two European centers. The first one, Sweden’s Lias Andersson, has New York connections and the second, Filip Chytl, is a 17-year-old who played against men in the Czech Republic last season.
“We needed centers,” said Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark. “Especially the way they play.”
Both expect to stay in Europe at least for next season.
Andersson, 18, who was selected No. 7 overall, is regarded as a solid, two-way center with speed and grit whose father, Niklas, played for five teams, including the Islanders for three seasons in the 1990s.
“I’ve never been to New York,” Lias Andersson said, “but actually my mom and dad met for the first time in New York. I hope he still has the lease for his apartment.”
Clark said “he’s a helluva player, he’s got the combination of grit and ability. We really needed a certain type of player to add into our organization. Fans are going to love him. He plays the North American style.”
Andersson “does not lack confidence”, Clark said, and that showed when he met with the media on Friday. “I want to be a full-package player, play in all situations, score important goals,” he said. “I want to be a leader; I think if you want to be successful, you have to play hard.”
Andersson noted that he liked the play of Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux and Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, “who’s won everything and I want to win everything, too.”
Clark said Andersson “comes from a great family, great guys, but it’s funny, they sort of let him do his own thing.” His uncle, Mikael, also played in the NHL, for 15 seasons, mostly with Tampa and the Hartford Whalers.
Andersson had nine points in seven games at last year’s Under-18 World Championships, where Sweden won the silver medal.
“He’s quick, fast, determined and skilled and can play all three positions up front. A Swiss [or Swedish] Army knife-type player who’s very adaptable and coaches will love,” said Craig Button, TSN’s director of scouting.
Chytl, who was picked at No. 21, stepped into the men’s league from juniors, and as the season went on “they were using him all the time” and is projected to be the second-line center at Klim next season, Gorton said. “He grew two inches during the season; he’s going to be a really good skating playmaker.”
A look at the Rangers’ two first-round draft picks:
Born: Smogen, Sweden
Height: 6-foot/Weight: 200
2016-17 Team: HV71, Swedish league
Stats: 9-10-19 in 42 games
Notable: Son of former NHLer Niklas Andersson, who played for five teams, including the Islanders, . . . Ranked third among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
Born: Kromeriz, Czech Republic
Height: 6-1/Weight: 181
2016-17 Team: Zlin
Stats: 4-4-8 in 38 games
Notable: Described as a dynamic player, if not a dynamic scorer . . . Played against men last season in the Czech league . . . Ranked 11th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting.