Taylor Beck, we hardly knew you. On Monday, the Edmonton Oilers re-assigned Beck to the AHL, making room for the recall of Anton Lander from Bakersfield.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) January 2, 2017
Beck was initially brought to the Oilers in mid-December. At the time of his recall, he was the AHL’s leading scorer, with 30 points in 19 games, and it appeared that he had earned a legitimate NHL opportunity.
That never came to pass. In two games before Christmas, Beck played a grand total of 9:35, took two penalties, and disappeared into the pressbox. Now he’s back in the minors once again. The 25-year-old probably deserves a longer leash at some point, but unless injuries help him out it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll get it.
That brings us to Lander, who had three points and a 57 percent faceoff win rate in 16 games with the Oilers earlier this year. Perhaps more importantly, he was also an integral part of the penalty kill during his time with Edmonton, averaging 2:23 per game while shorthanded. Among current Oilers forwards, only Mark Letestu (2:29) can boast a higher average ice-time.
Lander, as is his custom, has been incredibly productive in the minors during his time there. In just 13 games he scored 10 times and recorded 21 points, essentially taking over Beck’s role as offensive catalyst in the AHL. Lander has long been an elite minor-league forward, but aside from a brief window under former coach Todd Nelson he has struggled to convert his AHL scoring to the major-league level.
A key distinction between these two players would seem to be that Edmonton’s coaching staff has some confidence in Lander. Beck couldn’t push his way into a more prominent role on five minutes per game, but Lander probably doesn’t need to; he was routinely topping the 10:00 mark in ice-time when dressed by the Oilers.
Another important factor for Lander as he tries to keep his NHL career alive is his versatility. He’s a natural centre who can play all three forward positions, one who has scored in the AHL and been cast as a defensive specialist in the majors. That makes him a good fit in the spare forward role.
As for the ripple effect in all this, the recall of Lander leaves Jujhar Khaira as the de facto first line pivot in Bakersfield, though the Condors don’t have a lot down the middle behind him. Journeyman Josh Currie has nine points, while prospect Kyle Platzer has had a nightmare of a season. On the wings, the arrival of Beck may have the result of pushing Anton Slepyshev off the top line, though with 10 points in eight games since being assigned Slepyshev has made a case to stick in the role.
From a development perspective, this looks like treading water. From an NHL perspective, however, the Oilers have exchanged a player the coaches didn’t seem to have much confidence in for a versatile role player they’re more likely to use.