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Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

ANTON LANDER AND HIS IMPACT SEASON IN CALIFORNIA

Anton Lander was drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft. This was before the No. 1 overall picks began arriving each June, and before Pat Quinn had coached a game (he would do so in the fall of 2009). Lander was described as a two-way forward with speed and some skill.

  • Bob McKenzie: Lander is a two-way checking forward with excellent outside speed. He can make plays at full speed and controls the puck with a lot of confidence. A very unselfish player, Lander is always aware of where his teammates are and makes good crisp passes. He is a hard working forechecker, keeping his feet moving all the time. With a strong quick release wrist shot, he often uses d-men as a screen off the offensive rush. Lander drives the net hard with and without the puck and doesn’t quit on the puck until the whistle goes. Reliable and disciplined, he brings a consistent effort to the rink every game and always improves his team’s chances of winning a game. Will adapt and play any role given by coach.”

Speed is a moving target, and let’s agree that ‘excellent outside speed’ in 2017 speed is far different than it was in 2009. We know Lander at the NHL level, he has had an up and down offensive experience. His AHL offense? A long and winding road, with a massive spike beginning in 2013:

  • 2011-12: 14gp, 1-4-5 0.36 (points-per-game)
  • 2012-13: 47gp, 9-11-20 0.43 (points-per-game)
  • 2013-14: 46gp, 18-34-52 1.13 (points-per-game)
  • 2014-15: 29gp, 9-22-31 1.07 (points-per-game)
  • 2015-16: NHL
  • 2016-17: 25gp, 21-21-42 1.68 (points-per-game)

The last uptick, this season, is a really big deal, even for a player who is 25. Anton Lander is scoring at a fantastic rate in what may well be the second best hockey league in the whole wide world. I am not one of those people who believe there is a lot of mystery involved when it comes to tracking AHL players. If you can score 1/1 games/points and are less than 30 years old, then I think there is probably a place for you in the NHL unless there is a very specific issue.

And it may be speed.

On the Lowdown today, I asked Simon Boisvert about it. Simon is a former scout and has great insight into young players and projected them forward.

  • He is one of hockey’s mysteries. Over the years the players who perform well in the AHL and don’t perform in the NHL is because they are 5,08 or 5.09. Lander is not small, not fast, but in the AHL he looks like a superstar. In the NHL, there is no offense, except for the year that Todd Nelson was coaching. I think it has to do with foot speed and execution. It is mind boggling the difference between his performance in the minors and the NHL. 

Mind boggling is the perfect way to sum it up. The only coach who got offense from him was Todd Nelson, who coached Lander in the AHL and the NHL. Here, let me put up the 5×5/60 over the years, by coach:

  • 2011-12: 0.62 (56gp, 2-4-6) (Coach: Tom Renney)
  • 2012-13: 0.00 (11gp, 0-1-1)  (Coach: Ralph Krueger)
  • 2013-14: 0.00 (27gp, 0-1-1) (Coach: Dallas Eakins)
  • 2014-15: 1.49 (38gp, 6-14-20) (Coach: Todd Nelson)
  • 2015-16: 0.33 (61gp, 1-2-3) (Coach: Todd McLellan)
  • 2016-17: 1.77 (22gp, 1-3-4) (Coach: Todd McLellan)

His best season 5×5/60 is this one, but in a very small sample size. As you can see, his best season in a campaign over 40 games was in fact the Nelson year. His most common linemates that season were Matt Fraser and Andrew Miller, so 1.49/60 was a fabulous total.

WHAT ELSE CAN HE DO?

Lander can help on the penalty kill, a current black hole for the big league team. This year, before being sent out, he was one of the better forwards on the Oilers in GA/60 4×5. He was also 56 percent in the dot before being sent to Bakersfield.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I think the Oilers have probably moved on from Lander, Todd McLellan has had a chance to see him and make the call. Speed is probably a big part of it, as was the case with Mark Fayne. A lot has changed since 2009, or even 2011 when Lander was the talk of camp with his improved speed.

I think Lander may have another chapter in his NHL story. He is not expensive and is a player with a range of skills. One of the bullet points on his resume is going to be about that AHL offense. Some believe AHL numbers have no relation to NHL ability. I have never believed it, until Anton Lander. If I had to bet, I will bet on the still young Swede finding his way in the NHL, checking and contributing some offensively. He needs to find a coach who believes in him and a team with an opening on top three lines. For me, that means desert, Arizona or Vegas.

  • Big Jacks Meat

    You think Lander Cant bring more than Hendricks now ? He may not be as Physical but can play the role Hendo
    does and a bit more. I give lander more. I don’t recall Major mistakes when he is playing.. Not much Offense
    but neither does Hendo.

    • Spydyr

      If you look at intangibles like who brings more to the locker room,who can teach the younger players how to be pro and giver every night. Who is more intimidating physically against the other team and who will fight for a teammate. It is not even close. Wagon owns Lander.

        • Spydyr

          Yeah, he looked done putting opposing player into their bench with big hits.Wagon also has three more goals then Lander this season. Sure this will be his last season here but he can help the team the rest of the way.

        • GK1980

          I would not give up on Lander yet, he is a decent 4th line centermen, and he is good on faceoffs which this teams really struggles with. Hendo is good but also aging and he will be gone sooner then later.

      • fran huckzky

        You are incorrect about the leadership as Lander has been a Captain or alternate both in Baker and Swedish National team. Since you are so wrong about that I doubt the veracity of your other opinions.

  • Realist1

    We struggle on the dot and we struggle on the PK……. Lander is arguably the best at both in our system. We should definitely let him go. Because oilers? : \

  • oilers1168

    Anton may have his issues. But I think the elephant in the room is the coach. No disrespect to TMac. But if foot speed is an issue Khaira, Lucic and Hendricks should be an issue also. Lander maybe slow but I don’t see him being that much slower than those three. If the Oilers want to ice their best team possible Lander must be on this team.

    • polarcap

      It’s not clear who’s calling the shots. But it is evident that the Oil need to improve their PK and FO’s. Both areas where Lander has had success. It would seem that Lander would get consideration. TMacC has not demonstrated in San Jose where he his team missed the playoff and the next 2 years have led their conference that he can make player better. Sullivan in Pittsburg is an example of a coach that makes players better _Shultz, Haglan, Bonito. Babcock management of the young leafs is building a young core that may someday rival the boys on the bus. The oilers are better because McDavid and Drai are one year older. To take the next step, the oil need to improve their coaching. Break up the TMac andJayW bromance

  • madjam

    Lander almost played exclusively on 3rd or 4th line mainly , and thus offence is a far cry from what he produces on top 2 lines in AHL . His speed is not that bad but his physicality for 3rd and 4th line duty is questionable . Reasonable PK man , but they do not use him in situations that he might normally score points like he does in AHL , where his role seems much different . Still a good depth player .

  • Poloismz

    the last couple of times Lander has been in the lineup, he has shown that he is an NHL player. Which is not bad considering he usually had to always start with a faceoff in his own . He does a lot of the heavy lifting in the O-zone, if his linemates had buried their chances more so, he probably wouldn’t have to keep trying to get the coachs attention. Which at this point, is not there, yeah Lander had a horrible year last year but is Caggiula having that much better of a year than Lander had last year? Cags is getting PP time. If one coach (Todd Nelson) got scoring from this player then there is no reason why another coach can’t do the same. We use Letestu on the 1st unit PP for faceoffs and he has paid off. The year Nelson was here, Lander was on the PP and did the same thing. Plus we need help on faceoffs and the PK but I have a feeling we are going to regret losing this guy to another team for nothing.

  • Bubba Train

    It’s not so much Lander vs Hendricks. Different position.

    The team has some good wingers, they just need a center to distribute the puck. Landers vs Desharnai?

    Landers was in house and cheap, I would have taken Landers. Over the summer, both should be gone, hopefully Landers finds a home.

  • Bubba Train

    I also found it unusual how the coach/GM insisted Caggula, a rookie left wing was going to play third line center. I like the Drake but the stubbornness to keep him at center did not benefit him or the team.

    • McJeetz

      I think the obvious answer is Lander in for Caggula. I know coaches get stubborn on players but desharnaiswould likely have instant chemistry with Lander. Lander can take key draws on that line when desharnais is getting owned.

      Bottom 6:
      Kassian/Pouliot Lander Desharnais
      Kassian/Pouliot Letestu Slepyshev
      Hendricks

  • godot10

    Las Vegas will pick Marcus Kruger in the expansion draft from Chicago. When the Oilers don’t qualify him, the Blackhawks will sign him as a free agent to be their 4th line centre next year. Book it.

  • One reason why Lander had some points success under Nelson was his utilization on the PP. He was anchored to the crease and played a smart style that allowed for some great screens, garbage goals, as well as assists (if the puck hit him or rebounded, he’d pass it off to an open shooter for an easy tap in).

    While Hendo, Maroon, and Lucic are probably great around the crease they haven’t been utilized in that fashion a whole lot. Nelson pushed for a “funnel the puck to the net” approach which resulted in a lot of shots and pucks directed at the goalie with a lot of garbage cleanup. If they do start doing that again, Lander is a great candidate for the PP, I’d argue.

    Here’s another thing I was considering: Things will slow down during the playoffs. I don’t imagine a lot of run and gun hockey, especially on the 3rd and 4th lines. I don’t think Lander’s speed will be an issue in the playoffs, nor do I think any of the other slower players will be as exposed as the could be in the regular season. I’d value the ability to protect the puck, to make simple and chippy plays, and the propensity to just send it towards the net, to be a bit more valuable come playoff time. On top of all that, possession during tight games would matter and Lander can help with faceoff wins.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Anton is a pretty good teammate and leader down in the A, and the points he’s putting up is good to see, but he’s not cut out for top 6 in the NHL. I was surprised TMac didn’t keep him over DC after Caggula came back from injury because Lander is a vet and Caggula is raw. I might be wrong but didn’t Todd use vets more than rookies in SJ? Despite being a “growth team” you’d think he’d still want to ice the best possible line up every night. I’m not trying to complain to much about TMacs way of doing things this year, it does seem to be working(playoffs) but coach is definitely using more rookies than he’s done in the past, imo.

    As much as I’d like to see Lander up here to help with the PK and draws on the 3/4 line, he’s doing great think for the Condors in their hunt for the playoffs. I would definitely call him up if the Condors don’t make the playoffs.

    Plus, Lander has more value and use than Pouliot, but that’s just me.

  • Burns14

    If you want Lander to score in the NHL, he has to play top 6 minutes. That’s not going to happen in Edmonton. Time to get over that fact. He’s a spare part on the Oilers.

  • TKB2677

    I believe Lander was drafted to be the Oilers 3rd line center but he can’t skate well enough to be more than a tweener in the NHL which is too bad. Hendricks currently has the spot that should be Lander’s. But if you are going to play a guy who is limited skating wise, doesn’t bring a lot of offense just to win the odd faceoff and kill some penalties, you are going to take the guy that brings as many other things as he can. Hendricks can be on your PK and he can win some draws. Just like Lander. But what Hendricks has over Lander is Hendricks is bigger, 23 lbs bigger which is significant. Hendricks is way tougher, way more physical and way more willing to sacrifice his body. If he has to block a shot with his junk, Hendricks will do that while Lander won’t. Hendricks plays with more desperation in his game because he knows his skating isn’t great and he knows he has too if he wants to actually play. I think Hendricks also provides more offense just because he’s willing to do all the dirty things and go to the tougher areas it grind it out even though I think Lander has more pure skill. I think if Lander played with the same level of desperation and willingness to do whatever it takes to do something to help your team like Hendricks does, Lander would be in the NHL. But he doesn’t. So I understand why they pick Hendricks over Lander. If you are going to play a limited player, you are going to pick the guy who’s willing to do anything to stay in the line up.

  • Gordie Wayne

    Has any reporter ever asked Lander why he thinks he has so much success in the AHL but it has not yet translated to the NHL… I would be curious to know what the player himself thinks.