April 24 2014 07:50AM
Moving forward, Craig MacTavish and the Oilers have to ensure they don't develop players in the same fashion that they did Anton Lander. Lander is a perfect example of being put in the NHL too quickly. I think Lander will still be a solid NHL player, but his growth was rushed and that has delayed his development.
I'm amazed at how many fans and some pundits are writing off Lander. Comments like, "He didn't score in 60 games. He has no offence," flood my inbox every time I bring up Lander. The best is when people compare him to Detroit's younger players and how he doesn't match up.
You are correct in saying he doesn't compare, because their paths to the NHL are vastly different.
Lander played 56 games as a 20-year-old rookie and he averaged 10:36/game. He was essentially a 4th line player averaging 8:53 of ES TOI/game and 1:36/game on the PK. How would anyone expect him to produce offensively playing in that role?
He was eventually sent down to OKC in late February and played 14 regular season and 14 playoff games. Last season, he started in the AHL due to the lockout, played 4 NHL games early in the year, was sent back to OKC and then recalled for the final 7 NHL games before going back down for the playoffs.
He never had a consistent, defined role until this past season in OKC. He was named captain and started the season very well. During two lengthy stints in OKC he produced 18 goals and 52 points in 46 games.
He was recalled to the Oilers and played eleven between December 5th and January 2nd. He played 10 minutes or less 6 times, before being sent back to OKC. He was recalled again and played 15 games between March 14th and April 12th. These 15 games were the first time he was given consistent minutes. He averaged 16:26 over the final 15 games. He only produced one point.
I don't see him as a second line centre, but I do wonder how much further along in his development he'd be if he had spent his first two seasons in the AHL?
DO IT LIKE DETROIT
The Red Wings do a phenomenal job of developing players, especially European born players. They draft them in the later rounds, then let them play a few more years in Europe or in the American League, or both, before bringing them to the NHL.
Pavel Datsyuk turned 20 one month after being drafted in the 6th round. He played three more years in Russia before making his NHL debut at 23. He started on the 3rd line and tallied 35 points as a rookie, 53 his second season and 68 in his third. Then the lockout hit and when he returned to the NHL, at 27 years of age, he became a superstar.
Henrik Zetterberg was drafted in the 7th round in 1999, but he didn't make his NHL debut until 2002 when he was 22. He had 43 and 44 points his first two seasons, and then after the lockout, at the age of 25, he blossomed into a 85-point player.
Johan Franzen was drafted in the 3rd round in 2004 when he was 24 years old. He scored 16 points as a 25 year old rookie in 2005/2006 and he didn't register his first 50-point season until he was 28. He's not a superstar, but he is a solid complementary player.
Niklas Kronwall was the 29th pick in 2000. He spent three more years in Sweden before coming to the AHL. He got injured his first season in North America and played 25 AHL games and 20 NHL games. He spent the following season in the AHL and at the age of 24 became a regular NHL defenceman. He was a 3rd pairing guy his first year, a 2nd pairing guy the next two and is now a very good top pairing defender.
Gustav Nyqvist was a 4th round selection in 2008. He played the next three seasons in NCAA before racking up 58 points in 56 games with Grand Rapids in the AHL in 2011/2012. He did get into 18 NHL games that year, but last season he also split his time between the AHL (60 points in 58 games) and the NHL (6 points in 22 games). He started this season in the AHL, 21 points in 15 games, before the Red Wings found some cap space and recalled him. Nyqvist is 24 and he's played 137 AHL games and 97 NHL games.
Tomas Tatar was a 2nd round pick in 2009. He was a late birthday so he was almost 19 when he was drafted. From 2009/2010 to 2012/2013 he played 265 games in the AHL and scored 196 points. He did play 9 games in the NHL in 2010/2011, but wasn't back in the show until last season. Tatar became a regular NHLer just prior to turning 23.
Darren Helm was a 5th round pick in 2005. He spent the next two seasons in the WHL with Medicine Hat, then spent two years in Grand Rapids in the AHL. He became an NHL regular in 2009/2010 three months shy of his 23rd birthday. In the spring of 2008 Helm played 18 playoff games, won a Stanley Cup, but started the next season in the minors. He wasn't recalled until late in the year, got into some playoff action again and then made the team in training camp. The Wings don't guarantee spots to their young kids. They keep them hungry and make them earn it.
Jakub Kindl was a the 19th overall pick in 2005. He played two more seasons in the OHL, then three with Grand Rapids in the AHL. In 2010 and 2011 he was with the Red Wings but dressed for 48 and 55 games due to injury and being a healthy scratch. He became an every-game player at 25 years old. He isn't an elite player, he's a #5, but he's a solid contributor.
Jonathan Ericsson was the 291st pick in 2002. He spent four more seasons in Sweden before debuting in the AHL in 2006. He played 2 1/2 seasons in the AHL, before he was recalled late in the 2008/2009 season, dressed for 19 regular season games and 22 more in the playoffs. He was a solid #5 D-men, playing 18:43/game in their run to the Cup. He was a solid #5 D-man for his first three NHL seasons, until last year, at the age of 28, he became a top-pair guy playing 22 minutes a night. Detroit never felt the need to rush him or give him more than 17-18 minutes a night. He matured, gained confidence and is now a solid NHL defender.
Justin Abdelkader was a 2nd round pick in 2005. He spent three more seasons in the NCAA and then 1 1/2 season in the AHL. He played 12:18/game (11th most amongst Det forwards) during his first full NHL season, 2010/2011, and strangely enough played the exact same amount, 12:18/game, in his second year. For the past two seasons he's been a solid 3rd line centre.
Even Nicklas Lidstrom never debuted in the NHL until he was 21 back in 1991/1992, two years after he was drafted as a 19 year old. Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula and many others are prime examples of how to develop young skill. The Wings don't rush their young players. Whether you are an offensive star, a checker or a D-man the Wings don't hand young players icetime or a spot in the lineup. They let their kids develop their skills, and most importantly their confidence at lower levels, and the entire time they keep those kids yearning for a spot in the NHL.
The Oilers have delayed Lander's development because they rushed him into the league too early, and didn't allow him to develop his offensive confidence. This past year was the first year he did, and he put up very good AHL numbers.
Writing Lander off as someone with no offensive potential is ridiculous. I don't see him as a top-six forward, but he has the potential to be an excellent 4th line centre, and likely a solid 3rd liner. The issue for the Oilers is he'd be best served to play one more year, or at least another half season, in the AHL, but he needs to clear waivers.
He might clear, many teams send "on the cusp" players to the AHL every year, and many aren't claimed because they have a few players similar in their organization, but he could just as easily be grabbed by another team.
The Oilers don't have much centre depth so they likely can't expose him to waivers, but they need to learn from this, and ensure that they don't rush their next group of prospects.
- Lander needs to improve his speed. He isn't ready to play 16+ minutes a
night, but if he wants to contribute next year as a 4th or 3rd line
player he needs to get quicker.
- I would send Darnell Nurse back to junior next fall. He is too young to go to the AHL, and I don't see any reason to rush him into the NHL. Alex Pietrangelo spent two years in junior after being drafted 4th overall, and he didn't hurt him. The Oilers need to be patient.
- It is interesting to note the Wings haven't had much success drafting CHL players. Since 1995, the only CHL players to play 100+ games for the Wings are Jiri Fischer (305 games, injury cut short his career), Derek Meech (144 games), Kyle Quincey (375 and counting), and Helm. They prefer Europeans or NCAA players likely because they can play against men in Europe and develop, or come out of college at 21 or 22 and not need to be finished their ELC and be waiver eligible at 21 or 22 like Lander and Tyler Pitlick.
- Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Slepyshev, Mitch Moroz and Jujhar Khaira will all be 20 next season. The first two will either play in Russia for another season or come over to the AHL, while the two WHLers can get their feet wet in the AHL. I'd keep all of them in the AHL for at least two seasons, and the only way they get recalled is on an injury basis. Let them learn the pro game.
- I'd have no problem if Oscar Klefbom and/or Martin Marincin started in the AHL next year. There is nothing wrong with being patient with young players.
- Tough loss at home for OKC last night. They led 2-0 midway through the 2nd period, before losing 3-2 in OT. They have to win game two at home to have any hopes of winning the best of five series, because the final three games are on the road.
A big THANK YOU to Page the Cleaner for offering to dry clean all the suits and shirts that were donated to The Gregor Foundation. It was a very generous offer and we appreciate it.
Also, thanks to Matt and the gentlemen from Pi Kappa Alpha, Lambda Epsilon Chapter at the U of A. Those young gents emailed me and wanted to help. They collected 21 suits, 25 dress shirts and 5 pairs of dress shoes. It is great to see young Edmontonians offering to help out. Thanks guys.
And THANK YOU to all of you who donated suits, shirts, ties or shoes. They are still rolling in, which is awesome (you can click link above to see drop off spots) and once I have a final tally I will let you know. It warms my heart to see so many people willing to help those in need.
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