Emil Andrae is learning the ropes
Checking in on one of the Flyers' top prospects making his pro debut.
Spring is upon us, and while for some it means that the most exciting hockey of the season is a thing of the past, there remain some fun positives to be found in this point of the season. We've seen a couple of new--or at least relatively new--faces of prospects getting their cups of coffee with the NHL squad, making a jump to their next level, and the Phantoms are dipping their toes into that action as well. With Emil Andrae crossing the pond to join them on an Amateur Tryout for the remainder of the season, they're opening the door for his next jump in professional hockey.
Andrae was coming into his AHL debut with quite a lot of momentum. We saw him dominate two seasons ago in the Allsvenskan, and over on the smaller ice in Edmonton at the World Juniors, captaining the Swedish team. He made the full time jump to the SHL this season, and despite his HV71 squad's struggles, he still managed to put up 26 points in his 51 games played, establishing himself as The Guy for a team that sorely needed one.
His resume is impressive, his toolkit exciting, and Andrae is ready to hit the ground running with a whole new team in a whole new league.
After getting in a bit of practice time with the team after his arrival, he finally got in for last weekend's games, and perhaps predictably, but surely understandably, the pair of showings was a bit of a mixed bag. Though, if nothing else, he did show us a little bit of everything.
The flashiest bit of his weekend was, of course, the points he was able to pretty immediately put on the board. Andrae was tasked with running the Phantoms' top power play unit--a nice bit of responsibility granted right off the hop--and he excelled in that role. In his debut, he picked up his first North American professional point on Artem Anisimov's game-tying goal, after showing some good quickness to keep the puck in at the blue line, keeping the play alive, and getting the puck to Bobby Brink who was able to funnel it towards the net.
If you liked seeing that play once, you'll be thrilled to hear that they pulled it off again the next night in Hershey, this time with Andrae getting the puck to Tyson Foerster in the left circle, who sent a shot-pass to, you guessed it, Anisimov again.
All in all, Andrae showed very well on the power play, which isn't a huge surprise, given the overall offensive upside in his game. Even when he wasn't setting up goals, we still saw him aiding well in creating chances. Here, we see him again showing a bit of poise in being able to keep the puck in at the point, and after getting one shot through traffic earlier in the shift, he was able to put up another booming attempt. This one was blocked, but the power in that shot certainly popped, as we saw another element of that toolkit flexed.
Andrae's vision is something that's always been a real hallmark of his game, makes him so effective, and already that was on full display in his first weekend as well. Like here, he pulls off a nice little no-look pass while under pressure.
And here too, it was paired with his willingness to activate in the offensive zone. With Olle Lycksell taking care of holding the puck in at the blue line, Andrae was freed up to collect the puck in the corner and send it up to a wide open Bobby Brink in the low slot.
The numbers bear out well for Andrae's offensive impacts in these two games as well--he contributed a total of 10 individual shot attempts, three shots on goal, and six additional shot assists across all situations, which certainly gave the team a nice little boost.
Of course, we did say we saw a little bit of everything from Andrae that weekend, and that remains true. He made a big early impression in his first period of play in the AHL by going right in and stapling an opponent to the boards behind the net. Andrae is listed at just 5'9 and 176 pounds, but he's quite solid on his skates, and there's no fear in his game, that's for certain.
We also saw him providing a few quietly effective defensive plays, as he combined strong body positioning and a bit of quick stick work. Like here, he's able to gap up well and steal the puck away from the Penguins player, and neutralize their rush attempt and get play moving in the other direction again.
Here too, he's able to break up an entry attempt which leads to a counter rush for the Phantoms, as they're able to skate pretty cleanly through the neutral zone and ultimately get the puck deep.
Andrae's work in and around the neutral zone in general, we should add, was very strong. Across his first two games played, he contributed 16 controlled zone exits, the majority of which came from him skating the puck out of the defensive zone, asserting himself already as a dependable force for the team in transition (an area where they've been a bit inconsistent at times throughout the season).
All of that said, for all of the enthusiasm we've stoked here, we do have to reign it in slightly. Because these games, of course, weren't perfect for Andrae.
There are things that he's going to need to learn on the fly and adjust to, and it seemed that a piece towards the top of that list is how the game is called in the AHL. Andrae was tagged for two remarkably similar looking penalties in his first game, doing a little bit too much grabbing on his attempts to defend on the rush. He did clean things up after the second call, but it's all part of the process.
Here too, we saw a bit of a defensive hiccup, as he just found himself caught with his angle a bit off while trying to defend this rush, and ends up getting beaten to allow a chance against. Luckily Sam Ersson was there to clean up after him, so we can just gently list that as a potential area for improvement, without having to get too grumpy about a mistake with a catastrophic end, and keep it moving.
Because truly, we can't begrudge him the bit of work that needs to be done--he isn't a finished product, and we didn't expect him to be--but there remains a positive foundation that's being laid here. Andrae figures to be a key and exciting piece for the Phantoms down the stretch, as he works to polish out his game and establish himself towards the top of the organization's prospect depth chart. The future may be a big question mark for the Flyers in general at the moment, but Andrae is well on his way to becoming a real positive part of it.