Lander: Long Overdue

We often associate Anton Lander with the concept of rushing
a prospect along too quickly for his development, but I’m not sure this is
entirely fair. Make no mistake, the decision to keep him in the NHL for 56
games in 2011-2012 was reckless and definitely evidence of rushing Lander
along, however that one decision is an outlier when it comes to the patience the
Oilers have shown to the Swedish center.

The Oilers drafted Lander in 2009 knowing that this player
had a reputation as both a leader and a gifted defensive pivot. His offense
was non-existent in the SEL in his draft year, a very modest ten points in 47
games. The team allowed him to keep developing in Europe playing against pros.
In his draft+1 year those ten points became 16 points in 49 games. Again, Lander stayed another season in Europe
playing professionally at an age when most Canadian kids are still in junior.
In his daft+2 year those 16 points turned to 26 points in 49 games.

The club let him develop in the Swedish Elite League for two
seasons beyond his draft, playing professionally where his reputation as a
natural leader only grew. I don’t blame them for thinking that a 20 year old
kid with, at that time, four years of pro experience would have been ready to play
a bottom-six role on the club in 2011-2012. I DO blame them for continuing to
think that until Lander had played 56 miserable games for them that season.

The patience that they showed letting him develop in Europe
was very much undone by that move, but they didn’t cut bait or trade him. The
Oil kept at it with him. They continued to let him mature in the AHL.

From very humble point totals to begin with Lander
eventually grew to be one of the top offensive players on his team, and
eventually a point per game player in the American Hockey League.

Lander earned NHL games in every season that he’s been in
North America but things never seemed to break right for him.

AHL 2012-2013 47GP 9-11-20

NHL 2012-2013 11GP, 0-1-1

AHL 2013-2014 46GP, 18-34-52

NHL 2013-2014 27GP, 0-1-1

There’s no way to look at his production in the NHL over
that time without raising an eyebrow. Up to that point he has played 94 NHL
games and produced a combined eight points.

But he kept earning shots and the Oilers kept giving them to
him.

Last year at training camp I have to say that Anton Lander
looked like a broken man. Now maybe body language means something to you and
maybe you think it’s a load of brown bananas, but I watched every available
second of the preseason and it looked like Lander had resigned himself to going
back to OKC. And he did.

Nelson Car

He was put on waivers, went unclaimed (another reason we shouldn’t
worry about waivers for the few waiver eligible guys Edmonton has this year),
and began his season yet again in Oklahoma under Todd Nelson. The coach, who in
my imagination drives a sweet Pontiac Firebird, seemed to keep getting the most
out of Lander and again he produced well in the AHL. Then when Nelson came up
to the NHL he took his number one center with him and finally
Lander started to produce like an NHL player.

Here are the AHL/NHL splits for last season.

AHL 2014-2015 29GP, 9-22-31

NHL 2014-2015 38GP, 6-14-20

He would follow that up with seven points in eight games for Sweden at the World Hockey Championships.

Last year represented Lander’s NHL coming out party. His
scoring pace suggests there might have been a 40 point season possible from him
and his shooting percentage wasn’t off the charts. Actually, his 5v5 shooting
percentage was an abnormally low 2.27%. Where he excelled was on the PP, where
he was shooting the lights out at an inflated 26.7sh%. There’s no question that
Lander looked like he was extremely comfortable on the Nelson power play. I
wonder how well he will look on the PP under McLellan, or if he will get the
opportunity to play there at all.

At any rate, it looks as if Anton Lander established that he
could play in the NHL as a regular and it was just in time, too. Patience with
prospects is important, but the facts are that the longer a prospect takes in
the AHL the less likely they are to become NHL regulars. That might seem wrong
because we’ve been told about the Detroit model for the last ten years but some
research shows the breakdown of AHL players who become NHL regulars (200+ games
in the NHL) based on age when they were AHL regulars. The older one is as an
AHL regular the less likely they ever become NHL players is and the biggest
drop off is between the ages of 22 and 23.

success rates

This is the piece from Josh Weissbock that has the research and is the source of the image above.
For someone like Lander, who was 23 years old and an AHL regular last year, the
numbers suggest that the chances of him becoming an NHL regular were just
12.45%. If he ends up in the AHL again this coming season that drops to less
than 10%. This goes back to my original thesis, that the Oilers have been
patient with Lander despite their reputation to the contrary. He is of the age
that prospects stop being prospects. Happily it seems he might have finally
found his game at the NHL level.

Moving forward I’m not sure what to expect from Lander. A significant
chunk of his scoring last year came on the power play and I don’t know if any
coach other than Todd Nelson would have believed in Lander enough to give him
those opportunities. The Oilers will have McDavid and potentially Draisaitl who
they could add to the list of players getting PP time so I won’t say Lander is
a lock to get ice time on the man-advantage this season.

He is potentially due for an upgrade 5v5 as his most common
linemate last year was Matt Fraser. He could be flanked by Draisaitl and
Purcell on a third scoring line that could end up getting lighter
opposition because defenses have to focus on the top-two lines. 5v5 it’s really
not a bad spot to be in.

I’m happy for the not so young Lander (already 24
years old). He’s a more mature player than he was when he arrived to the
NHL with a reputation for that very same maturity. He appears to be as
confident as ever, and he should be. He looks like the third line
center of the Edmonton Oilers. That’s something that’s taken him a long time to earn.

  • freelancer

    Great blog! I’m thinking Lander might get some good opportunities on the second power play. This team doesn’t have enough guys that can stand in front of the net with consistency, something Lander did very well. Considering he might have the chance to play with Yak and Draisaitl for at least part of the season I’m hoping for an offense boost.

  • Joy S. Lee

    And to think that Dallas and his “magic touch” , almost flushed this guy down the proverbial toilet.

    One can only hope that Dallas gets a job with the Leafs………how sweet would that be?

  • JackB

    @Matt Henderson You said:
    “For someone like Lander who was 23 years old and an AHL regular last year the numbers suggest that the chances of him becoming an NHL regular were just 12.45%.”

    I don’t think so. I think that is a mis-representation of the data. Doesn’t it really mean that of 100 AHL players aged 23, 12 of them will make the NHL?

    And of the 12 who make the NHL, there possibly might be 12 more, on the wrong AHL affiliate, who are blocked by an NHL parent team who are well stocked at their position?

    Just a thought. I guess it’s all relative.

    And I wonder if Lander would have made it any sooner if he had not been kept on the team for the 47 games his first season? (ie more time to develop under Nelson)? And if he would have made it sooner under any other coach than Eakins? Yes, it does all come down to coaching and development doesn’t it.

    I also wonder if Schultz would have turned out different if he had been left in the AHL for the balance of the lockout year? He went from experiencing success on a WELL COACHED TEAM . . . to a POORLY COACHED TEAM (not to mention the EXTREMELY HIGH EXPECTATIONS of a rooky GM who has shown he was a poor identifier of hockey talent). Then he was not placed (I don’t think) in positions where he could succeed. I think that too much was asked of him which ultimately lead to loss of confidence and drop in play.

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Pouliot Hopkins Eberle – Dominant line after the All Star break.

    Hall McDavid Yakupov – #Yakcity.

    Draisaitl Lander Purcell – Offensively responsible third line.

    Hendricks Letestu Korpikoski – Fast Grinding type fourth line.

    Klinkhammer/Gazdic

    Just need another top 4 D and this is the best Oiler team on paper in over a decade.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I’d like to see Anton as the 3rd or 4th centre. If Dr.Drai does in fact make the team, it should be on Landers line then if one gets kicked out of the dot the other can fill in.

    Leon shouldn’t be Antons down fall.

    Don’t get me wrong, Leon should be in the AHL for at least 20 games or until injuries come into play.

    Lander deserves a descent shot on the team. Imo, Lander shouldn’t be in the AHL anymore.

  • camdog

    Lander can win a draw and then park himself in front of the net. He’s likely the only forward on this team that you can say has the ability to do this. If RnH or McDavid end up manning a point, this would give Lander prime time power play minutes.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Lander took painfully long to develop and as was mentioned, he was also put on waivers at one point. it’s nice to see the Oilers finally get a break with a guy who was likely almost gone to a guy who has finally shown enough at the NHL level to earn himself a 2 year contract. imagine the howling if say Detroit claimed him and he started to produce for them?

  • Make it or break it year for this guy. This player is not tough, he is not fast,can’t score, not that great in the face-off circle .

    Don’t be fooled by the draft pedigree…it was MacGregor…. isn’t even on the club anymore.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Not tough? We apparently have a different view of toughness. And if you think his speed is questionable, I would like to hear your opinion on Draisaitl’s skating. Lander is extreme value and has intangibles that are not found anywhere else on the oil roster. Even though he is a notoriously slow starter, he has earned a roster spot. If Nikitin can have a bad camp and still hold down a spot like last year, Lander should be afforded the same courtesy.

      • JackB

        He doesn’t score enough to be on the third line,and he’s really not a an energy guy to be playing on the 4 th line.

        Let’s hope he has a faster start this year, and comes to camp with an extra 10 lbs of muscle.

        Draisaitl’s skating needs some work. His first few strides need work,,but his passes are sweet.

        I am pulling for Lander,just not sure if brings any outstanding role to the roster, at this point.

  • Lander was a fillin/callup/default player from last year , and did a reasonable job considering . However , he will be in tougher this year to land on main squad as a center . Move him to wing , he might stand a better chance . You would not want to move Draisaitl to wing except for a line mate like McDavid , but certainly not Lander . Draisaitl is the future , and the type of center that is coveted in todays game . That leaves him trying to beat out Letestu and I would think he’d lose that battle . Lander may end up back in AHL or as a reserve forward . Nice to have a reasonable depth player .

  • JackB

    I like Lander but I think that Letestu was brought in for that 3rd line centre roll…he’s been in the league longer than Lander and has put up decent numbers for a bottom 6 forward. They paid him 1.8 mil for 3 years for a reason but we’ll probably see them interchange during the year. These guys are gunna be pushed for a spot in the coming yrs by Yakimov, Chase, Slepychev…We got some good depth now and its gunna be fun to watch this team this yr and yrs to come. Go Oil!!

  • sportsjunkie007

    There is no way that Todd Nelson drives a Firechicken. I see him in a 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1. He’s more of a badass type than a Smokey and the Bandit type.

  • Anton CP

    @Matt,
    Correct me if I am wrong, but in the first ten of the 38 games he played in the NHL last year, did Anton get 0 points? If my memory is correct, and history says it likely isn’t, that would mean his 20 points were put up in 28 games. That’s about a 55 point pace, over a full season. Not bad for a third or fourth line centre. I hope he keeps that up.

  • Andresito

    I have always believed in Anton Lander. He was handled poorly early on. How many 19-20 year olds will light it up in the NHL playing 8 mins a night playing with Eager and Petrell??! . He was finally given a chance last year and proved he belongs. Played 1st line centre in Worlds and had 1ppg. Great character player with more skill than you think. He will be great this year as our 3C.

  • JackB

    It was mainly for guys like Lander and Schultz that I was extremely disappointed in seeing Nelson leave. Lander was a completely different player under Nelson and really found his stride in the NHL. Can Mclellan do the same?? Time will tell, but at least its a 180 from Eakins, and furthermore out of all the NHL coaches Mclellan is probably the most similar to Todd Nelson, given that they hail from the same wheat growing province, and they both share a modest and straight forward demeanor

  • Joy S. Lee

    I really do think that Anton Lander took a major step forward last season. Have to admit, I didn’t see lots of Oiler games last year, but I did see him in the World Championships, and was highly impressed.

    I’ve heard so much about his leadership abilities, and in Oilers games I did see, he also looked to have turned a corner.

    He was making plays around the net that appeared to me to be highly creative and with a newfound confidence. He was causing chaos in the offensive zone with his quick reads and quick plays to the net. He drives everything to the net, now. Did I mention that he is extremely defensive-minded and a great leader? With his offensive game coming around, having good players to line up with night after night… I can only see this getting better, quite frankly. Anton Lander has become a real keeper, and it seems that couldn’t happen to a better guy. I’m excited to see how he fits on this team, because he may end up as a vitally key cog in the wheel. I’d bet on this guy, and I’d bet on that being the case. To me, this is one of the great stories on the Oilers, though it’s a bit overshadowed these days. It seems many of us are in agreement about this player… I can hardly wait to find out if we’re right.