I don’t dislike Anton Lander. Really I don’t. I just don’t think he’s a “real” NHL player. And if the Oilers are counting on him to be anything more than a 13th forward on the roster, next season, then I’m worried.
Surely we can agree that Lander is not a Top 6 forward? While he is a pretty responsible player, defensively, fact is the guy can’t score. Sure, you can talk about the point totals he put up in Oklahoma City this past season. But you would be making a rather large assumption that the kind of production he gave the Barons can easily translate to the NHL, if at all.
When I see situations like this, I think back to the Billy Ashley story. Ashley was a “can’t miss” outfield prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers back in the 80’s. Ashley put up gigantic numbers in the Pacific Coast League, and looked poised to take over from Ron Cey, Dusty Baker and Steve Garvey in the L.A. batting order. It didn’t quite work out that way.
If you know anything about professional baseball, then you’ll know that the PCL generally inflates the statistics of hitters. Playing in smaller parks, at higher altitudes, and (quite frankly) against inferior Triple-A pitching, hitters like Ashley look way better on paper than when they arrive in the Major Leagues. Ashley, and others like him, could never make the jump.
Now, in fairness to Anton Lander, Billy Ashley had gaping holes in his game, and the scouts that ignored those should have been fired, whereas Lander is at least a serviceable professional hockey player.
The problem is that Lander lacks three key qualities that you generally need to be a “real” NHL-er: Speed, Scoring Touch and Size. If a player lacks any one of these things, it’s a problem. But if more than one of them is absent in a single player, that is usually (although not always) fatal. They are destined to be a star…in the AHL.
Projecting the 14-15 lineup, Lander is NOT better than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. And sorry, all of you Sam-Haters, but he is also not better than Sam Gagner. Gagner has 100 NHL goals. That bumps Lander down to the 3rd line. But wait a minute, is Boyd Gordon not your 3C? Yep. Yep, he most certainly is.
Lander is also not a better player than Mark Arcobello. Arcobello’s game includes a certain greasy-ness that allows small-ish players with average speed like him to get by, in the NHL, and in rare cases, thrive. Arco is better on the boards, takes the man better, and goes to the net better. They’re about equal defensively and on D-zone draws.
The Oilers are in trouble if they are planning on using Nugent-Hopkins, Gagner, Gordon and either Arcobello or Lander up-the-middle in 14-15, like they did last year. I’m sure Craig MacTavish will bring in a new centerman, but surely whoever that is will be 6’2 or bigger. And that…does not describe Anton Lander, either.