Lias Andersson, leader on and off the ice
By Justin Vézina
“He’s someone who talks a lot to the players, especially the young ones. He knows he has experience, so on the bench, he tries to explain to certain players where to place themselves. He’s a good communicator.”
These are the words of Rocket head coach Jean-François Houle. Which veteran is he praising for his leadership qualities? We’re talking about a forward who has just reached the quarter-century mark and who only arrived in Laval this summer.
Lias Andersson didn’t take long to make his mark with his new team. In his first eight games with the Rocket, the 25-year-old Swede made himself a regular on the scoresheet, scoring seven goals and collecting two assists.
In addition to his offensive flair and his prominent presence on the power play, Andersson has distinguished himself above all in his mentorship role. Although he remains a young player, he has integrated perfectly into a group that includes eight rookies in its ranks.
“I remember my first season at professional level, I was very shy and very quiet,” recalls the former captain of the Swedish junior team.
“So to have a smile on my face every time I’m at the rink and joke with the youngsters and put them at ease, that’s important to me. I hope to be able to show them how to become professionals while remaining themselves. That’s something I really value,” he explained with a smile, despite the intense training he had just completed.
When pressure rhymes with Andersson
Another aspect that Andersson is now used to dealing with is that of playing in an environment where fans are passionate. The Swede was selected 7th overall in the 2017 NHL draft by the New York Rangers. It wasn’t the first time, however, that expectations had been high for him.
In fact, Andersson comes from a long line of professional players. His grandfather, Ronny, was a goalkeeper with the prestigious Swedish clubs Malmö and Frölunda at the turn of the 70s. His father, Niklas, was drafted by the Quebec Nordiques and played more than a hundred games in the NHL. And finally, his uncle, Mikael, played in over 750 NHL games.
Nevertheless, this pedigree proves invaluable in the role of mentor. At least that’s what the Rocket coach concluded. “He’s just 25 years old, but he’s been through a lot. He’s someone who can help young players in that environment. And above all, he’s a good person with good values,” says Houle.
Ultimately, the fact that Andersson has been through what some of his team-mates are currently going through means he can better guide his teammates.
“The best advice I can give all the youngsters is to just come to the rink every day, have fun and stay away from the internet. Just come and train and enjoy it. They must appreciate being a professional. […] They’re paid well to do what they love, so it’s up to them to enjoy it,” philosophized the man with over 100 NHL games under his belt.
Adapting to Laval
Of course, helping his new team-mates is one of Andersson’s most important tasks, but he also has to find his feet in a new city and a new organization. The 6’1″ winger has played for the Los Angeles Kings for the past three campaigns.
And the verdict on his transition couldn’t be clearer: “Everyone has been so kind to me and made it easy for me as a newcomer. Everyone on the team is super professional. I have nothing but good things to say about Laval so far.”
Whether it’s spending time with Mattias Norlinder or Gustav Lindström, watching his friends’ hockey games in Sweden, playing video games, cheering on Liverpool – his favorite soccer team – or making phone calls with loved ones, Andersson finds time to enjoy his dream.
Which never deviates from his modus operandi, which is to have fun each day. And that’s exactly what Andersson tries to instill in young players. And it’s also his biggest regret about his early career.
“Living in the moment is probably something I didn’t do [at the start of my career]. I always looked ahead, then ahead and then ahead again. But you have to live in the moment, the guys live in a great city and play in front of so many great fans, they have to enjoy it.”
That’s the mission Andersson has set himself: to enjoy life in Laval. And to fill the net. Two quests that are going beyond well so far.