Rasmus Andersson had early exposure to the itinerant life of a hockey player.
This season, the 18-year-old Andersson has adapted relatively well to the Ontario Hockey League, where he was the third-leading point-getter among defencemen during the regular season with 64 over 67 games with the Barrie Colts. As the son of Peter Andersson, a long-time pro who had a NHL stint with the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers in the 1990s, Rasmus arrived in Barrie well-schooled in how to adapt to a new environment.
"My father played like 20 years pro, so everything we did was around him," says Andersson, a Malmo, Sweden native who was NHL Central Scouting's 84th-ranked North American skater in Janaury. "We moved to Switzerland, we moved to Germany. Every since I was 2-3 years old, I was always skating with him, playing with my brother [Calle Andersson, who plays in Sweden], playing in the streets with my brother and my dad. It's been really good for me.
"In Barrie, first of all, I have really good billets and a really good coach [Dale Hawerchuk] who has taught me a lot about the Canadian style of playing hockey," adds Andersson, whose Colts begin the OHL Eastern Conference semifinal against the North Bay Battalion on Friday. "I'm comfortable now."
Andersson, a robust 6-foot and 210 pounds, admits that his physical game and his attentiveness on the defensive end need some work. His motivation to cast his lot with major junior came about after a disappointing 2013-14 season with the Malmo under-20 team in Sweden. His adviser, former NHLer Claude Lemieux, has a son in Barrie, which led to making a match.
"Claude told me a lot of good stuff about Barrie," Andersson says. "I didn't get a lot of ice time in Malmo my second year. So I just wanted to try something new."
As a right-shooting offensive defenceman who reads the ice well and has an excellent shot, Andersson has helped Barrie stay up in the standings in spite of losing 2014 NHL first overall pick Aaron Ekblad to the Florida Panthers. The Colts power play finished fifth in the league, up from 10th a season ago, with Andersson helping foster opportunities for 100-point scorers Joseph Blandisi, Kevin Labanc and Andrew Mangiapane as well as Brendan Lemiuex, who had 41 goals in just 57 games.
"We've worked a lot of shot tips," says Anderrson, who represented Sweden in two world under-18 championships. "We try to be positive with each other and keep it simple — a lot of shots, tips and some criss-cross (between the point men)."
1. Which essential skills do you need to improve at as you get ready for the pros?
"I think I want to play more aggressively in the D zone and throw a couple of hits. Improve my gap control."
2. What was the biggest adjustment between playing in Malmo and playing in the OHL?
"I knew it was physical, but I didn't expect how physical it would be. The first 15 games was tough for me. I thought I would adjust sooner, but I'm happy right now."
3. It's not as if people have pressured you to be like Aaron Ekblad, but what's it been like stepping on to a team that had to replace him?
"I thought it would be a lot of work when I came here, but it hasn't been too bad. Guys have taken really good care of me. I just try to play my own game and think of me and my teammates."
4. Which NHL defenceman do you pay particularly close attention to?
"[The Los Angeles Kings'] Drew Doughty. I like his whole game. He can jump into offence and defend and throws big hits here and there. He has a good shot and is really skilled for a defenceman."
5. What is your favourite sport other than hockey?
"Soccer — I am from Europe. My favourite team's Real Madrid ."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.