From the moment I started reading up on Anton Lander his unique skill set was obvious. In the world of prospect development, “unique” is a very powerful word. Lander had a quality about him that screamed “special.”
Lander’s story isn’t about what he does at the plate, but rather in the field. He’s a counter-trey, opposite George. Anton Lander is hockey’s grandson to Doug Jarvis, the splendid center who won faceoffs, killed penalties and spent two generations playing every game on the schedule.
The question with Jarvis is the question we are asking about Lander: is he going to score enough? These all leather, no wood types need to score a little just to stay in the lineup. That was the problem for a brilliant winger decades ago named Bill Lesuk. Lesuk was such a good penalty killer and shadow for opponents that he actually had a fairly long career. Teams would flush him from time to time in search of offense, but he’d always get another gig. A journeyman, they used to call them.
In the summer of 2011, Lander was coming off a very strong SEL season:
10-11 Boxcars: 49, 11-15-26 in the Swedish Elite League.
Desjardins NHL equivalency: 82, 14-20-34
His faceoff numbers in the SEL were just below 50%.
Lander was 28th in the entire SEL in time-on-ice at age 19.
When he arrived at summer and then training camp, Lander’s skating–which had taken a giant leap–made him stand out:
Oilers Skating and Skills Coach Steve Serdachny: Anton has had incredible development. He’s made incredible strides in his skating and his quickness, he has so many great intangible qualities and a fantastic individual. Foot speed, mobility, efficiency have been a part of his program and something he’s been working on. This guy is a dedicated learner and working hard to become an Edmonton Oiler.
Stu MacGregor at summer camp: “His effort is so consistent, every shift. The best way to put it is he works smart. He’s really intelligent, good on faceoffs. That really stood out for us. His skating may have held him back from being a first-round pick, but it’s improved.
He continued to impress and won an NHL job on the 4th line and PK–what the hell else do you expect Doug Jarvis’ grandkids to do? That wasn’t really the problem, though. The problem is that they club kept sending him out there:
- 5×5 points per 60: 0.62 (14th and last among regular forwards)
- 5×4 points per 60: nil
- Qual of Comp: 12th out of 14 forwards (ahead of Eager and Hordichuk)
- Qual Comp: 12th toughest faced among forwards
- Qual Team: 12th best available teammates among forwards
- Corsi Rel: -11.3 (13th best among forwards)
- Zone Start: 52.2% (6th easiest among forwards)
- Zone Finish: 45.1% (12th best among regular forwards)
- Shots on goal/percentage: 54/3.7% (10th best among F’s>50 shots)
- Boxcars: 56, 2-4-6
- Plus Minus: -8 on a team that was -26
This isn’t really on the player. Honest. This is on the coaching staff or management–whoever pushed his name up the depth chart to the point where Anton Lander spent his rookie season in the NHL as an unready deer in the headlights. There is still plenty to like–that footspeed didn’t go away, he has some jam to him and doesn’t mind the physical stuff–but he’ll need some time to recover his confidence and adjust to the speed of the game. I believe the Oilers when they tell us he’s an outstanding defensive C prospect, but he’ll need to be able to show it the next time he is given a regular NHL shift.
I don’t think Ralph Krueger will push this fellow. Time in the minors is the smart play.