The Oilers signed Anton Lander to a one year, one-way deal worth $600,000. It makes sense for both sides, but it doesn’t guarantee Lander a roster spot.
Lander was drafted in 2009. He made his NHL debut in 2011, even though he wasn’t ready for NHL minutes. Lander’s development curve is not one the Oilers will use for any powerpoint presentation on how to develop young players.
“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 wrote that summary of Lander’s first few years earlier this year, and while the past hasn’t been great, his present and future could still be bright.
Lander will come to training camp in September and compete for a job. The 4th line C spot is vacant with the retirement of Ryan Smyth, so Lander, along with Mark Arcobello (who has the exact same contract as Lander) and others will compete for a centre position. If Lander can improve his foot speed this summer he will have a good shot to make the team.
He will need to earn his icetime and if he can provide some offence he could swap spots with Boyd Gordon. Gordon is an elite 4th line centre, who can play 3rd line minutes, but he doesn’t provide much offence. If Lander is going to earn more minutes he has to find a way to translate his offence from the AHL last year into the NHL.
It won’t be easy, but Lander is still young, 23, and he is a hard worker.
When I spoke to Lander earlier today (he will join me on TSN 1260 today at 5 p.m. MDT), he said his main focus his getting stronger and faster. He knows his limitations, so we’ll see how much he can improve on them before September 15th.
Lander needs to make a positive impression on the Oilers, at the NHL level, to earn another contract. They like his leadership skills, his defensive awareness and his drive, but he needs to produce in the NHL if he wants to stay here next season.
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