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.