Anton Lander and the Power Play


Anton Lander might be the most baffling prospect in the Oilers’ system. He found another level offensively in the American League in 2013-14, but continued to post Jean-Francois Jacquesian scoring totals when promoted to the majors. What’s going on?

A look at his situational statistics is illuminating.

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The Splits

The Splits

The Oklahoma City Barons’ power play was lethal in 2013-14, finishing third overall in the AHL. Lander was both driver and beneficiary, and by my count he recorded more than half of his offence with the man advantage:

  • Power play: 10 goals, 17 assists, 27 points
  • Other situations: Eight goals, 17 assists, 25 points

Thanks to that power play push, Lander topped the point-per-game mark in the minors for the first time in his career. The obvious problem is that however good he is on an AHL power play, Lander is not likely to see significant minutes in that role in the majors (though Dallas Eakins gave him a push in the latter half of last season).

Does that mean we should disregard his impressive numbers and get set for more major-league impotence?

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The short answer is ‘no’ (well, actually it’s ‘probably not’ but I’m trying not to hedge here).

What we want to see is progression, and if we isolate Lander’s non-power play numbers it becomes evident that even without the power play window dressing the player took major strides last year:

  • 2011-12: 14 games, five points (0.357 points per game/29-point pace)
  • 2012-13: 47 games, 16 points (0.340 points per game/28-point pace)
  • 2013-14: 46 games, 25 points (0.543 points per game/45-point pace)

What we have here is a picture of steady progression. 2012-13 was a bit of a special year because of the NHL lockout, and Lander took a major leap forward after it ended – fully three-quarters of his points came after January 1 and he was a point-per-game guy in the postseason that year.

That 45-point pace line might not sound especially good, but with the power play results filtered out it’s actually quite decent. For the sake of comparison, Jordan Eberle had 44 non-power play points in the NHL last year; David Perron had 43.

Stripping away the power play numbers tells us that Lander’s offensive totals in the AHL are a little misleading. But focusing in solely on his even-strength totals tells us this guy has the necessary tools to score at a high level in the second-best league in North America. At some point, he’s bound to figure it out in the majors, and he’s very likely to get a shot at doing so this season. Of course, if he can’t figure it out this time around there probably won’t be another.

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  • knee deep in it

    I was at the game in the saddledome. I thought he played well, far better than arco. I was focusing on those two as center is our biggest area of need right now.

    He has some skill for sure but seems to defensively orientated to play on one of the three scoring lines. Gordon is the checking line center so there might not be a place for Lander.

    I would like to see him get a game between Yak and Purcell to see if they can be not awful.

  • Spoils

    EJ Hradek of NHL Live was laughing at the Oilers last night saying things like, “I’d rather be where the Flames are then where the Oilers are…”

    Mainly the point was that the Oilers don’t have enough depth down the middle and thus they don’t stand a chance in the West.

    Which is to say that IF you look at – RNH, Draisaitl, Arco, Gordon, Lander, Acton – and think we’re in good shape, people think you are drinking Oiler Kool Aid.

    The reckoning awaits.

      • Spoils

        Look, I’m an Oiler fan. I’m just relaying that EJ and the supposed NHL intelligentsia think we are fools for entering the season with our current crop of centers.

        Also – the flames are, and always will be just a horrible horrible thing.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Three years ago in the 2011-2012 season Anton Lander had the worst even strength production of any Oilers fwd (0.62pts/60).

    He has not scored a single even-strength NHL point since then.

    Not. One.

    I’ll be honest, that’s fairly convincing to me.

    It would take a prodigious upswing to qualify him as “not offensively impotent”. He has been tied for dead last in the entire NHL in terms of EV production for the last two seasons running.

    Lots of guys never “figure it out in the majors”. Anton Lander may be their king.

  • Christian Roatis

    Lander is in the now unenviable position where he HAS TO produce at the NHL level.

    When I can see that kids like Yakimov, Khaira, Chase, and even Ewanyk are bigger, better skaters, better hitters/tougher, and they are developing at a very good rate with the same to better offence potential, he becomes more a problem than asset.

    Yes he can perform at the AHL…but he does not do anything in the NHL. I can see he is more defensive minded and does PK duties but when ya cant produce helpfully any offence even on the fourth line….it becomes next batter up time.

    I would like to see him play very well and get say 30 points plus this year on the fourth line
    but chances are very good that he won’t get 10, IMO, and that is not good enough. Arco is better skilled offensively and plays just as good to better 2 way hockey as a centre right now, while Pinizzotto is doing well to impress, then there is Pitlick, Joensuu, etc, who make potentially stronger wingers for that 4th line role.

    Eeven if Lander stays, he will only play part-time mostly/be a 13th or 14th forward and thats a waste (unless lots of injuries happen). I think these other guys (I just named above) are much better suited to play with Hendricks and Gordon. So,… I say its time to now look into packaging him for a trade cause the clock is ticking away.

    • Christian Roatis

      Don’t blame that “stats”. This looks like a guys starting with a pre-conceived conclusion and cherry picking a few numbers that supports the conclusion. I’m sure there a mountain of stats (perhaps almost any start one can think of from Ladner’s NHL time) that would not support Willis’ conclusion.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Is the ‘Lander’ issue an indicator of a team which has had very little success over an extended period of time unwittingly lowering the bar relative to the quality of a prospect?

    Just like the Leafs who are so desperate for success that they attach a saviour tag to any player that shows even a modicum of talent, is that same desperation creeping into our assessment of prospects for the Oilers?

    Frankly, Lander has show absolutely nothing at the NHL level that would lead me to believe that he will have a career. He hasn’t scored, he hasn’t distinguished himself defensively, he has average foot speed, he isn’t a bruiser. So, what does he bring to the line up? Surely we have or should have somebody with more to offer. If not, we need to acquire someone.

    • Christian Roatis

      Willis has spent an inordinate amount of space on this site over the last year or so trying to make a case that Ladner is an NHL player. Hard to understand what he sees in this guy.

    • beloch

      If you were talking about Boyd Gordon at the exact same point in his career your comments would have been the same.

      “Let’s be like Detroit”
      Then, 5 seconds later
      “He’s young and had performed well overseas and in the minors but hasn’t put it together in the NHL yet…. GET THE PITCHFORKS!!!!!”

  • The Last Big Bear

    Only because I am a non beleiver in advanced stats and that they will never compare to baseball stats i paste this article, just because.

    Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan, for example, still shrugs off the usefulness of fancy stats.

    “You can never overestimate the human aspect of the game,” Nolan said, per the Buffalo News. “The information I use is with my eyes and my soul and my heart. If I see someone who is competing and I know he’s competing, that’s good enough for me. I don’t need a machine telling me how hard he worked. … My No. 1 analytic is you score one more goal than the opposition, you win.”

    He’d fit in well with Avalanche GM Joe Sakic.

    “At the end of the day, it’s who wins the game,” Sakic told the Denver Post. “I know with our group, watching them all the time, they were never out of it. They never quit. And in almost all the third periods, when the game was on the line, we had the puck the majority of the time.”

  • beloch

    A great NHL center needs to drive possession against tough competition and put up points. A guy that can do at least one of those things is still useful. You can shelter a gifted scorer who can’t drive play or a use a guy who can’t score to shut down the opponents top lines. Great centers are hard to find, so most teams make do with a combination of useful centers. Anton Lander played against easy competition last season, didn’t drive possesion, and didn’t score. In short, he was not useful.

    Lander has 94 games of NHL experience, so he’s had a chance to adjust to the league. He’s 23, so he’s very close to peak. He showed definite signs of progress in the AHL, but has a lot of work to do just to become a replacement level player in the NHL.

    Lander’s ELC expired after last season and he was signed to a 1-year bridge contract at two thirds of his ELC salary. This is a PYOFO (“prove yourself or F ‘off”) contract. If Lander doesn’t become a “useful” player this season he’s unlikely to play for the Oilers in 2015-2016. MacT might give him a qualifying offer on condition he spends a year or two in the KHL, but that’d be as far as any sane GM would go.

  • beloch

    Yea Gretzky always did better when he was playing with Kurri and Tikkanen as opposed to Semenko and Lumley.

    Anton Lander has been played in roles he is neither suited for or with non-complimentary players……..If Eakins plays him in his position with good players, good results will follow.