Call it a homecoming, if you will.
A strange one, given Frederik Andersen never actually played for the Carolina Hurricanes in the past. But he was drafted by them back in 2010 before being unable to reach an agreement, allowing Andersen to Anaheim at the 2012 selection process.
Eleven years later, things have certainly changed.
The net, in Andersen's words, was busy at the time with Cam Ward at the helm. There was no room for Andersen, the team's seventh-round pick, to make it up the ladder with a clear path. But over a decade later, Andersen has proven to be a solid NHL starting goaltender, with an all-star game appearance to his credit back in 2020.
It hasn't always been sunshine and rainbows, though.
Andersen was tasked with being Toronto's No. 1 five seasons. He had some good moments, highlighted by a 38-win 2017-18 season, and was often Toronto's best playoff performer. But there were nights where he wasn't – Game 5 against Columbus in 2020, for example – that put a damper on his time in T.O. Injuries limited his action in 2020-21 and he ultimately lost the starting job to Jack Campbell heading into the playoffs, rendering an end to what should have been a more successful era in Toronto. With no playoff series wins, it was just another chapter in a dark history that has been Toronto's playoff woes for over 50 years.
So Andersen is back in Carolina, where it, somewhat, all began. And he's loving the opportunity, starting the season 3-0-0. He's typically been pretty hit or miss at the start of seasons, but it's been truly a successful start to his time in Raleigh.
"It's a nice group," Anderson told reporters on Friday afternoon. "I'm just trying to focus on every game and every shot. The guys have been really helpful and really welcoming so that has made the transition amazing."
The 2020-21 season was a struggle for Andersen. Outside of injuries, his play was inconsistent and he cost the Leafs some games along the way en route to losing out to Campbell when it mattered most. Andersen said he didn't make any major changes to his game, but is focusing on bringing it all back to where he believes it can be.
"I think last year I was too hard on myself," Andersen said. "Just being in good position, being set early and allow my athletic ability to kind of come out and I think that's been working so far."
It's a small sample size – and get used to that term on a recurring basis over the next few weeks – but, so far, the numbers are playing in his favor. At 5-on-5, Andersen has a .942 save percentage with a 1.21 goals-saved-above-average, good for 11th in both categories among goalies with at least three games played.
What changed? Andersen is healthy, playing in a strong defensive system and thriving in a new environment. And that can be a big thing, especially for a goaltender where their mental game is massive. For example, playing in Carolina brings on a lot less pressure than playing in a hockey-crazed atmosphere like Toronto.
"Of course there's a difference (in pressure), especially with media and stuff like that. But I think there's pressure everywhere. Every team is out there trying to win. We have pressure within ourselves and we want to get the best out of each other. So I think there's definitely pressure everywhere, it's just a matter of controlling it."
The Hurricanes have ridden Andersen through their entire schedule so far, and it only makes sense. He's playing well and we know, based on his overall career, that Andersen can be a game-changer when he gets hot. It just might not feel that way because it's been a while since that was the case.
But he's comfortable in his new digs, and you can see that in his game. Andersen is back to being calm, cool and collected and hasn't had many brainfarts that became commonplace during the end of his Leafs' tenure. Andersen doesn't seem to be feeling the effects of his lower-body ailment that put him in out of commission down the stretch last year. He's tracking pucks, he's twisting and turning quickly and doing a great job of cutting off angles and making big stops.
That's all the Hurricanes can ask from him. After leaving Petr Mrazek behind – who, funny enough, replaced Andersen in Toronto – the Hurricanes see themselves as Stanley Cup contenders again like most people believe. Is Andersen capable of taking this group far towards glory? That's the challenge right now, but he's giving his team a shot every night.
This season should be an interesting one for the 32-year-old goaltender from Denmark. He's expected to be the starting goalie for his country when they make their Olympic debut in Beijing next February and the pressure of playing for a contender should keep Andersen in the limelight.
The next challenge? Proving he's a true No. 1 in the NHL still. So far, so good.