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.