February 15 2014 10:38PM
The fate of prospect Anton Lander is one of the decisions the Edmonton Oilers will need to make soon. The 22-year-old centre, drafted 40th overall by the team back in 2009, is in his final year of waiver exemption. More than that, he’s laying waste to the American Hockey League.
Lander scored two goals and added an assist in Oklahoma City’s 5-4 loss to Lake Erie on Saturday. It extends his personal scoring streak to eight games and continues an exceptional run of play since his demotion at the start of January. Since returning to the Barons, Lander has scored 7 goals and added 16 helpers for 23 points in 16 games.
Even more impressively, Lander has accomplished that with a rotating cast of wingers that hasn’t included Linus Omark, who was Oklahoma’s primary offensive weapon early in the year before a trade to the Buffalo Sabres. Injuries have made it difficult for him to settle in with regular help – against Lake Erie he played on the top line with ECHL call-up Austin Fyten and San Antonio refugee Jack Combs – but he has kept scoring regardless.
Lander’s speed isn’t especially good for the NHL, and he isn’t overly big either, so there is at least some question about his ability to translate his skill set. But he has forced the Oilers hand. His defensive game, his intelligence on the ice, his tenacity in the corners and a constantly improving offensive game predicated on puck possession all make him extremely attractive as a prospect.
The Oilers are almost certain to move veterans out of town at the NHL trade deadline, and that will open a spot (or possibly more than one) for a minor-league call up. Lander should get the call, and more than that he should get an honest opportunity in a top nine role – Edmonton simply can’t afford not to find out if he’s for real.
- Lander isn’t the only member of the Barons on a roll right now. Roman Horak is currently on a six game point streak (6G – 5A – 11PTS) and playing his best hockey this year, while Brad Hunt had four points against Lake Erie and has picked up at least one point in seven of his last eight games (2G – 9A – 11PTS). Asked about his big game, Hunt laughed and said it was all a fluke. “The apples are just falling off the tree,” he said.
- Hunt was also full of praise for his regular partner on the evening, Brandon Davidson, and said he’s just improved since Christmas. Davidson, who had two points and a minus-14 rating though 27 games at the new year, has four assists and a plus-eight rating in 17 games in 2014. He was a rock on Saturday, not only providing strong defence but delivering a (clean) bone rattling hit that resulted in a scrum in the defensive zone.
- Richard Bachman got the start in back-to-back nights and has played in 16 of 17 Barons games since the start of January. That may not sound too crazy, but it’s a stretch that has included three sets of back-to-back games and two stretches of three games in three nights. Bachman keeps delivering strong play, and in the one game he sat the Barons were destroyed by a 9-3 score in Charlotte.
- Speaking of that Charlotte game, Barons head coach Todd Nelson has alluded to it several times as a turning point for the team, an awful outing but one that helped knit the group together. The Barons had won six consecutive games since that loss prior to their shootout defeat on Saturday.
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