Anton Lander can post crooked numbers in the AHL, where he’s a quality player at evens, on the power play and penalty kill. In the NHL, he has gained some traction as a defensive forward and PK man, but there’s not much offense when Lander plays in the NHL. Is he a tweener? Or is there an NHL player developing in Oklahoma City?
In training camp this season, the Edmonton Oilers seemed committed to sending a message to the troops: Follow the instructions, train hard, arrive in shape and good things will happen. Edmonton kept Brad Hunt, Will Acton and others, while demoting men like Martin Marincin and Anton Lander.
Circumstantial evidence to be sure, but you could make a strong case that a strange group of decisions clouded the end of Oilers’ training camp this season. Edmonton is currently carrying four centers, one of whom (Leon Draisaitl) does not have the complete confidence of head coach Dallas Eakins based on a steady reduction in playing time.
Enter Anton Lander. Right?
LANDER CAN’T PLAY NHL HOCKEY!
I’m fairly certain that isn’t true, but will readily admit Anton has had the chances to show well. The best defense of his lack of offense I can muster: He was elevated to the NHL much too early and now seems to have some kind of mental block about scoring in the bigs. Here are Anton Lander’s most frequent linemates during his NHL career and their Corsi for % (5×5) together:
- Lennart Petrell (39.1% in 221 minutes)
- Ben Eager (41% in 199 minutes)
- Ryan Jones (42.5% in 171 minutes)
- Magnus Paajarvi (55.2 in 112 minutes)
These are not HHOF names (notice the numbers with Paajarvi, though) and the results are predictable when we factor in most of Lander’s NHL career came when he was unready.
Last season the Oilers did give Lander some time with good players, and the numbers were slightly better:
- David Perron (42.7% in 99 minutes)
- Luke Gazdic (38.5% in 56 minutes)
- Sam Gagner (46.5% in 56 minutes)
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (52% in 53 minutes)
But he didn’t piss a drop offensively. And that’s a big issue. If I’m the guy trying to find you playing time, and last season you were gifted with 100 even strength minutes alongside David Perron without getting a point? Well, here’s your hat what’s your hurry.
LANDER CAN PLAY AHL HOCKEY!
Dallas Eakins:“If (Lander) is going to play here, he has to be able to play
centre, he has to play left-wing and he has to play right-wing. He has
to be able to step in on the power play and kill penalties. He has to be
able to wear a bunch of different hats.”
Anton Lander can play the AHL game like ringing a bell. He’s definitely scoring at a greater pace and last season showed well at evens and on the power play:
- Lander EV in 13-14: 43, 8-14-22 .511
- Lander PP in 13-14: 43, 10-16-26 .605
The problem is that the production here—which represented a career high for Lander—isn’t outstanding compared to other players in similar situations. Here’s Roman Horak, same team, same season:
- Horak EV in 13-14: 53, 14-15-29 .547
- Horak PP in 13-14: 53, 7-12-19 .358
So the kind of offense Anton Lander is delivering in the AHL doesn’t make him special. Put another way, the job he’s going to take in the NHL isn’t the Leon Draisaitl gig, it’s the Boyd Gordon slot. So, in a real way, Anton Lander brought the wrong musket to this year’s fight.
For fun, here are the Lander splits so far this year:
- Lander EV in 14-15: 13, 3-3-6
- Lander PP in 14-15: 13, 1-6-7
- Lander PK in 14-15: 13, 0-0-0
And again we see the problem: Lander’s AHL numbers are padded by power-play time and he’s not going to get a lot of it (despite Eakins quote above) in the NHL. Anton Lander is, for all intents and purposes, a square peg in a round hole for these Edmonton Oilers.
THEY NEVER LIKED HIM!
like Chicago’s got where they have three lines of offensive guys and a
fourth line that can play against anybody. That’s what we’d really like
to do. We need (Anton) Lander to step up and (Mark) Arcobello, or add a
free-agent forward or two who can compete for those jobs. Maybe somebody
who could come in and be a good fit with Yak (Nail Yakupov on the third
line). We have the first line (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle). If we
can draft a guy at centre who can play, then we’d have that guy, Perron
and Sam or some form of that.”
Lander was signed to a one-way deal and given a chance in the fall, but he didn’t win that opportunity. Mark Arcobello won the day based on better offensive ability and (probably) equal play away from the puck. Lesser skills like agitator (Lander can do that a little) couldn’t make up the difference and that’s all she wrote.
People remember things like playing 100 minutes with David Perron and not scoring. People like the coach who gave you that time ESPECIALLY remember those things. I’m cheering for Anton Lander because he’s an Oiler and I’m a fan, and it was a nice story about him being a leader as a teenager and the kind of man you want on your side.
He hasn’t shown the ability to do anything offensively in the NHL, and he’s not special (not really) in the AHL. When the time comes for a replacement on that 4line, or a checking line emerges as the 3line, I think Anton Lander will be in the group of players who get a look.
There is little evidence he can step in for Leon Draisaitl and be a raging success. Very little evidence.
(Anton Lander photos by Rob Ferguson, all rights reserved)