He Comes from the Land of Ice and Snow

You can go a long time between scouting reports like the one boasted by Anton Lander. He’s touted as an exceptional defensive forward, a man who can post up some offense but will make his living on the defensive side of the puck. His skills are unique, and in this way he has a very good chance of being a "long term" Oiler during a very nice decade for hockey in Edmonton.

The nature of the sport of hockey these days is that even prospects from Sweden are very famous before their NHL debut. Scouting reports are instant and extremely detailed and youtube gives fans the world over a chance to see insane talent. Anton Lander will make his money miles from the youtube highlights, but if he lives up to the defensive hype the NHL will employ him for a long, long time.

This isn’t to say Lander can’t put up offensive numbers. In fact his math resume is quite impressive:

  • Boxcars: 49, 11-15-26 in the Swedish Elite League.
  • Desjardins NHL equivalency: 82, 14-20-34
  • His faceoff numbers in the SEL are just below 50%. Considering he’s a teenager in a man’s league, that number could improve in the AHL and may be an NHL strength down the line.
  • He’s a horse: Lander was 28th in the entire SEL in time-on-ice last season at age 19.

If he can play a quality defensive game and chip in 10 goals a season we’re looking at a useful player. If he can score 15 and supply the 2-way play he’s a gem. Anything beyond that and we’re entering Don Luce territory.

The long term outlook for Anton Lander is very attractive. As we get ready to see him at TC, pre-season and in the AHL and NHL, it’s important to remember Lander’s competition. Miles from the Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner’s is the role Lander will play: checking center.

His competition is older and less likely to hold him back when Lander’s ready to play in the NHL. Should the young Swede impress in training camp and in Okla City during the season, a deadline deal could be made to make room. Injuries to any or both of Eric Belanger or Shawn Horcoff could rush his NHL debut.

It’s completely possible that the Oilers will have a depth chart of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner and Anton Lander at center soon and that they could form the foundation of a winning team for a decade or more. There’s a lot of work to do, and luck, injuries and productivity will impact the results, but it’s been a long time since the Oilers could boast a young, varied group of centers like this group. And in a very real way, Anton Lander could be a key. Doing the tough things like checking and penalty killing occur miles from the headlines, but they are central to a winning team.

The story begins at training camp 2011.

  • Nice LT: Ive been very excited about this guy eventually joining the team but in the “my team doesnt win faceoffs and cant kill a penalty kinda way”. And if his leadership skills are as they say(was he not captain of his club team at 19?) then i could see him being a huge asset to our team for many a year… BTW what a beauty!! I cant remember the name though?

  • Lowetide

    I may be the only other person @ here who can actually remember, from direct viewing, just how effective Don Luce truly was in his prime.

    One of my favorite stats pertains to the Sabres’ cup final year of 1975 where Gilles Perrault was +1 for the year and Luce was +61 in an era when checking lines existed and played against the other team’s top scorers every night. Luce, with danny Gare and Craig Ramsay on wings, was an absolute nightmare for opposing forwards.

    • RexLibris

      not the only one. what i remember from that year (from direct listening and a few games in person) was the shorthanded goals. checked my memory and luce and ramsay were 2nd and 3rd in shorthanded goals. If anyone could have gone PLUS on PK it would have been Luce.

  • knee deep in it

    After watching the Oilers’ lack of balance for a few years, there is some light. Tambo has a lot of detractors but he seems to be building a solid team. He is checking off the boxes.

    I just wished he was a little quicker.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Not a fan of these Stan Weir/Juha Widing comparisons.

    I hope we get a chance to see Lander spend some time between Paajarvi and Omark, see him get every opportunity with better skilled linemates before he gets slotted into a fourth line checkers role.

    If he’s accidentally knocked unconscious during training camp, if when he awoke everyone called him Peter (as in Forsberg) ….would this help change his fortunes LT?

    • Lowetide

      Lol. I can’t really get a read on his offense. The boxcars and Desjardins’ are good, but he played a lot of minutes compared to the rest of the league.

      We’ll know better a year from now.

  • I agree with the part about his player type being key, LT. Dave Bolland is that guy for Chicago, they had no life in the playoffs this year until he came back and they could have 3 competitive lines again. Bergeron and Peverley were great for Boston this year too. Absolutely pumped we may have this type of player on the way, excited to see how Lander turns out.

  • justDOit

    Yes, I can’t wait to see this guy play some NHL minutes in the preseason.

    Is Lennart Petrell coming to TC this year? He and Lander might potentially be fighting for the same job.

    Born Apr 13 1984 — Helsinki, Finland
    Height 6.03 — Weight 209 — Shoots L

    His stats show him scoring 0.4 ppg and getting 4 x more PIMs than points, but last season he scored at 0.62 and his PIMs = points. Maybe he’s a maturing center who is no stranger to the rough side of the game. It would be a big jump from SM-liiga to the NHL though.

  • Even with his gushing scouting reports I really hope they don’t decide to rush Lander and instead take a more conservative approach. The jump to a new continent, league, culture (and ensuing culture shock) can affect different prospects in different ways. Considering the risk, its better to take a small position and ramp up the stakes as the trend builds.

    On a side note, does this leave Brule with an even hotter seat?

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Hartikinen, Lander, and Jones as a 3rd line sounds pretty good to me in a yr or 2. The next few yrs are sure gunna be uber exciting with all the young guys comin in.

  • Hoho. That’s pretty hilarious. Was chattin with a couple of buds just a few hours ago about Luce and Ramsay and Gare and the 75 series and here we get an LT Luce reference. Not that the Perreault Sabres and LT lack introduction, he knows them pretty good.

    My favorite Sabre game is the night the Bruins nearly ran them out of the building in an 8-0 Bruin win that was absolutely physically dominating. I don’t think a Sabre took 4 strides with the puck all game without getting hit. Including Perreault.

    But I definitely was still cheering for the Sabres against those Philadelphia bullies in 1975. Especially after the Orr penalty in 1974.

    But the Buffalo couldn’t pull it off.

    …I’m worried that out of those top 3 guys–RNH, Gagner and Lander–that not one plays the physical game. To me that setup lacks balance. Messier provided the grit that Gretz could not (and there was a Hunter centering the next line). I don’t want to see a team of knuckle-draggers, but I do want to see a team that can match on every possible level.

    Don’t get me wrong though. I am definitely excited to see Lander play. I just don’t know if those three guys are the answer. In the world of writing they say you have to be able to “kill your babies”. Essentially you have to let go of your pet ideas or your pet lines that no longer fit in the greater context (but you love them because they’re well done, quality), and switch them for something that fits better, despite it not being the same top end quality.

    The Oilers might have to kill a baby to win another Cup.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I rolled my eyes when I read this: “It’s completely possible that the Oilers will have a depth chart of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner and Anton Lander at center soon and that they could form the foundation of a winning team…”

    “Sam Gagner” and “winning team” should never be stated in the same sentence. The loser can’t win a faceoff, backcheck, forecheck, hit, or really do anything beyond putting up the requisite 45-50 points a year for a center getting lots of ice-time with top-6 wingers.

    Horcoff is under contract for 4 years and at a salary that makes him untradeable. Belanger is under contract for 3 years and can produce the same offence as Gagner but with some faceoff and defensive skills added on top of that. Add RNH and Lander to the mix and the great news is… there will be no room for Gagner so ST can finally trade that one-dimensional center for some help on defence.

  • WeepForTheSin

    I agree that Gagner should be traded, just not right now. His value is at an all time low. I am not in the camp that believes Gagner has peaked and we won’t see him get better in this league, but I AM in the camp that feels that he is not the kind of player we need centering the second line.

    We need a guy with some size, more strength, more speed and he should be able to win a face off.

    I don’t see Gagner turning into the kind of player I see complementing RNH and Lander well.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    3 deep at centre. The teams that make the Stanley Cup finals usually have 3 very good centremen. Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Vancouver, Boston, etc… think of the centres on those teams.

  • RexLibris

    I agree with the RNH, Gagner, Lander down the middle theory. When people at other nation sites say that the Oilers will be stuck with Horcoff until the second coming I show them a picture of Brian Campbell. In this league, with the GMs and cap situation some teams have, anyone can be traded. Absolutely anyone…..except Sean Avery. Okay, so absolutely anyone can be traded except Sean Avery…..or Rick DiPietro….or Sheldon Souray…..darn, I think I’m losing ground on my argument here.

    Seriously, a contract like Horcoff’s, with limited NMC’s and NTC’s and a declining salary-relative-to-cap-hit for a serviceable centre who can PK and win FO’s is a tradeable asset. So I don’t think Lander will have to wait that long to get on the roster. I would argue that Belanger at this point is more of an impediment to Lander’s making the NHL team.

    I’d like to eventually see a Lander, Omark, Paajarvi line. An all-Swede line that is familiar with each other’s style could be an interesting experiment and their styles might compliment each other well as Omark is as much a playmaker as he is a finisher, Paajarvi is developing into a finisher who can control the puck down low, and Lander is someone who can win the FO and start the play with possession as well as cover lapses defensively.

    There’s one other asset that I see building in the Oiler’s propect pool: leadership. Hall appears to have it in spades, Whitney has shown it, we know Horcoff has it, RNH has been said to be a leader on the ice by wanting the puck and leading by example, and Lander’s well-documented leadership resume to date as well. I think this, in addition to the scoring depth, speed, and grit that the Oilers prospects have is what will take this team from the realm of dominant to championship. It’s an aspect that I think has been lacking in other teams that perennially dominate the league but always fall short in the POs(San Jose, Canucks, Washington).