DETROIT – You’re not going to find a much bigger fan of Joakim Andersson than his coach Mike Babcock.
“I’m a big fan of his,” Babcock said. “The way he works, smart player, he’s tough too … as a forward you don’t want to have to play against a player who’s going to be above you and always be around you and slow you down. He’s one of those really good two-way centers you need to win.”
Andersson, 24, got to the NHL a lot quicker than normal in the Wings’ system.
With the season-long injury to Darren Helm, Andersson filled in as the Wings’ third-line center. He was solid defensively and strong on faceoffs.
Andersson averaged just over 12 minutes of ice time during the regular season, totaling three goals and five assists in 38 games.
In the postseason his ice time went up a minute while registering a goal and four assists in 14 games.
“It gives you confidence when you get your minutes out there on the ice,” Andersson said. “I’m happy with that. I feel better and better each game in the preseason.”
His faceoff proficiency improved from the regular season to the playoffs. He won 46.4 percent of his draws during the lockout-shortened year and raised it to 55.9 percent in the playoffs.
The Wings rewarded him with a two-year $1.465 million contract extension in August.
“Andy’s done a good job for us, he’s a big player, he knows how to play,” Babcock said. “He’s earned everything he’s gotten. He’s come back quicker and stronger, so good for him.”
Becoming quicker and stronger is something Andersson, who’s 6-foot-2, 206 pounds, focused on during the offseason.
“Skating-wise, I’ve taken small baby steps every year since I was 12,” Andersson said. “I’ve been told I have to work on that. I’m getting better at that. Getting better at reading the game and being good defensively and trying to get better on faceoffs and all the small things I need to do.”
In Friday’s 5-2 win over Toronto, he was between two veterans – Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Cleary.
“They’re good, they’re strong on the puck, they helped me out a lot, great experience, two good players,” Andersson said of Bertuzzi and Cleary.
Most of the preseason, Andersson centered Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist.
“That should be my strength, reading the game,” Andersson said when pointed out how well he fits in with veterans and younger forwards. “If I can read the game it doesn’t really matter who’s out there. I just have to read the strengths the players have.”