March 08 2014 06:55PM
If the Edmonton Oilers are going to solve one of their many problems with Anton Lander, what role will it be? Lander is almost 80 games into his NHL career, WHAT does he do well? Let's start at the beginning.
Way back in 2009, Lander and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson were going to be a big part of Edmonton's future. Lander's draft day scouting report went like this:
- Bob McKenzie: Lander is a two-way checking forward with excellent outside speed. He can make plays at full speed and controls the puck with a lot of confidence. A very unselfish player, Lander is always aware of where his teammates are and makes good crisp passes. He is a hard working forechecker, keeping his feet moving all the time. With a strong quick release wrist shot, he often uses d-men as a screen off the offensive rush. Lander drives the net hard with and without the puck and doesn’t quit on the puck until the whistle goes. Reliable and disciplined, he brings a consistent effort to the rink every game and always improves his team’s chances of winning a game. Will adapt and play any role given by coach.”
- Stu MacGregor: “Very excited about Anton. He’s a player we look at as a potential second-line centre with for sure third-line ability. He’s a great faceoff man, competitive at both ends of the ice. Smart, captain of the Swedish under-18 team. All of our interviews with all of the Swedish players this past year, everybody spoke extremely high of him. Their leader was Anton Lander.”
Lander was drafted in 2009, and then spend two seasons in Sweden honing his skills. In the second SEL season, he scored well enough (49GP, 11-15-26) to imply the Oilers might have a very nice two-way type. When the 2011 rookie camp arrived, things began to hum.
During a Nation Radio episode, I asked two guests (Bruce McCurdy and Steve Serdachny) about the young Swedish center.
- McCurdy: Lander might be on the fast track up (to Edmonton). He showed a new level of speed that was missing last year. There was one play where he just turned it up a notch, and he just turned it on and was gone. It was an unexpected burst from that player.
- Serdachny: Anton has had incredible development. He’s made incredible strides in his skating and his quickness, he has so many great intangible qualities and a fantastic individual. Foot speed, mobility, efficiency have been a part of his program and something he’s been working on. This guy is a dedicated learner and working hard to become an Edmonton Oiler.
Lander played so well new head coach (Tom Renney) ended up keeping Lander in the NHL that season. And he played with legends.
In his short NHL career, Anton Lander has not been blessed with quality linemates. His 5x5 linemates since he arrived are not strong; allow me to list his leading TOI partners:
- Lennart Petrell 221:18
- Ben Eager 199:07
- Ryan Jones 130:45
- Magnus Paajarvi 112:16
This is not a good group. Edmonton was trying to develop kids six at a time so the two-way center's slipping through the cracks wasn't surprising. Losing organizations have been doing this since the beginning of the NHL. Which brings us to now. Why are the Oilers recalling him now?
There's your answer. Anton Lander—the man who crawled through 500 yards of Lennart Petrell and came out clean the other end—delivered a quality offensive season in North American pro hockey.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The NHL doesn't respond when you request admission. You have to break down the door. Anton Lander is about to get a real chance to do it. If he can, it solves one more problem internally and gives Craig MacTavish a useful player and a value contract for 2014-15.