Anton Lander’s North American hockey career has not gone as planned, but there are some signs that he might be turning the corner in OKC. Part of his success? A little help from his "Nordic" friends.
I’m not really sure what they do in these Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and sometimes Greenland–except Neighbor and Weigh) but they sure do love their hockey–and for three Oiler farmhands familiarity may be the key.
Anton Lander (Sweden), Toni Rajala (Finland) and Teemu Hartikainen (also Finland) have found chemistry in the American south and are hoping to parlay it to NHL employment. Rajala is the late addition (Magnus Paajarvi–another Swede–was the early LW during the lockout portion of this past season) to the line and has sparked the offense in a big way.
Anton Lander has overcome injury and added offense in OKC (in a small sample size) for the first time since he arrived in North America.
Lander’s offense during the regular season (47, 9-11-20) is exactly what I projected back in the summer. In the post-season, when healthy Lander has been splendid (7, 5-3-8). The problem isn’t the last 7 games, it’s the previous 75 in the AHL (12-17-29)–that’s a pretty good sample and offensively it leaves Lander on the outside of an NHL career every time.
He did have one solid SEL season (49, 11-15-26 in 2010-11) but hasn’t been able to build on that year in his two years in North America.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I think we have enough evidence to suggest Anton Lander’s NHL career (should he have one) will be as a defensive center–4th line and penalty kill. I do think we can make an argument that his handling since arriving in North America has been chaotic–his NHL time showed some promise in the PK department but very little offensively.
Sooner or later you develop a past, and for prospects the entry level deal is a big part of the resume. Lander’s negatives–poor offense, injury, inexperience–have now been heightened by the fact the new GM has no connection or loyalty to him. His time in the NHL–too soon by plenty–may see him passed over as a prospect in a strange ‘guilt by association’ scenario.
The best thing for him? Assume that solid SEL season and this most recent run in the AHL are real, give him a full season with some skill players in the AHL, and see how things look a year from now.
Many felt Magnus Paajarvi was a bust one year ago–his resume enjoyed a solid uptick this season. Anton Lander’s may do the same this year. The young man from the Kingdom of Sweden badly needs another season in the American South.
With a pair of Nordic’s, apparently.