As far as professional debuts go, they don’t get much worse than Anton Lander’s first foray into professional hockey in North America. To call his season a disaster would be putting it mildly. He couldn’t score at either the NHL or AHL level (just 5 goals in 84 professional games) and was a complete train wreck in terms of possession metrics for the 56 games he played in the NHL.
In fairness to Lander, he shouldn’t have been in the NHL in the first place. It was clear right from the get go that he was in over his head, yet the Oilers left him with the big club for the majority of the season. The Oilers obsession with young players may have come back to bite them in a big way with Lander.
Like Scott mentioned in Lander’s write up for the last 25 under 25, Lander was torched by about every metric. He couldn’t generate shots, he couldn’t prevent them and he couldn’t get out of his own zone. Not even the AHL could get him out of his funk, as he struggled to find his scoring touch there too.
Scott Reynolds had this to say about Lander:
Anton Lander was not put in a position to succeed this season. He clearly wasn't ready for the NHL, but stayed with the big club for two thirds of the season. If he had played the whole season in Edmonton, I probably wouldn't have dropped him quite as far, and would have pointed the finger squarely at the group that decided to put him in over his head. But he didn't just play in the NHL. He also played in the AHL, and he didn't play all that well. Lander had just nine points in twenty-eight AHL games (0.32 points per game) and registered just 1.93 shots per game. Those totals are slightly worse than Tyler Pitlick's (0.40 points per game and 1.99 shots per game) who is both six months younger and was playing his first season against men. Like most of the group, I had Lander a touch ahead of Pitlick in the rankings (Derek is lone exception here), but these two players aren't far apart by the numbers, and last time I checked, Pitlick's season was considered by most to be a pretty major disappointment.
Not a lot to like so far, so why did he only fall two spots?
Despite all his struggles at 5 on 5, he had a simply fantastic season killing penalties. He played a touch under 2 minutes per game 4 vs 5 and was behind Petrell, Smyth and Horcoff in terms of shot prevention on the PK. These are not easy minutes and Lander was able to contribute to a decent PK group. His biggest problem at the NHL level has been his in ability to keep the puck out of his own end, but that’s not just his fault. His most common teammates were Lennart Petrell, Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk. Not necessarily putting him in a position to succeed. Not only that, but by the time the Oilers smartened up and sent him to the AHL, the Barons were in the midst of some strong play, making it hard for him to get into the top 6. This doesn’t excuse his play, he’s got to be better, but it does give a bit of perspective.
Lander managed to get some major minutes in the SEL as a teenager and that’s no easy task. The prospect and potential tag only lasts for so long before it loses value and Lander can’t afford another poor season. On the flip side, the Oilers need to put him in a position to succeed, even if that means big minutes in the AHL at the start of the year.