Monday, 30 April 2012
04/30/12 Rookie Report Card: Anton Lander
Coming into the 2011-12 season, Anton Lander was one of the Oilers' top prospects. He still is, despite a season in which he scored just 2-6-8 in 56 games. It's not all Lander's fault that his rookie year didn't exactly go swimmingly, but he didn't manage to overcome unfavorable circumstances. For that reason, he has earned a D+ grade.
Lander's trip to the NHL was at least a year premature. When the Oilers were healthy they had four centers who were perfectly capable of handling the load in Nugent-Hopkins, Gagner, Horcoff and Belanger. There was no need to rush Lander to the big show, but rushed he was and it showed. Given the adjustment to the smaller North American ice and playing against the best competition in the world, we shouldn't be that surprised.
Was it best for Lander's development to play an average of just 10:36 per game in the NHL? It would have been hard to justify more ice time for the young Swede. 8:53 of that time was spent at even strength, but he proved to be in over his head. Lander faced the second-easiest competition of all the Oilers' regular skaters, and started his shifts in the offensive zone 52.2% of the time, but finished with the second-worst relative Corsi of the group and ended his shifts in the offensive zone only 45.1% of the time.
1:36 of Lander's ice time per game was spent penalty killing, and he was ninth on the Oilers with 90:25 in total PK time. That penalty kill time was one of the main justifications for keeping Lander in the NHL, but he had some very poor results. He did manage to score one of the Oilers' four shorthanded goals, but the overall upside just wasn't there for him this season.
After 56 games of spinning his wheels in a limited role Lander was sent down to Oklahoma City, where he should have been assigned in the first place. He posted 1-4-5 in fourteen games, which nearly matched his output from those 56 NHL appearances. In four playoff games so far he's got a goal and an assist.
Lander's spot on the Oilers is by no means secure heading into next season, and he may in fact have been set back by not spending a development year in the AHL. In all likelihood he'll still need some time in OKC, and will find himself as a first call-up in the event of an injury. Again, it's not Lander's fault that he was rushed to the NHL, but he's a strong enough prospect that it isn't time to panic yet. Lander has never been an offensive powerhouse, but his production increased every year that he spent with Timra of the Swedish Elite League. He has other intangibles that will be valuable going forward, which means it will take a little longer for his presence to be felt with the Oilers.
When that happens he could be a very valuable member of the team, but his 2011-12 showed that he isn't there yet.