The captain of the Oklahoma City Barons, Anton Lander, has had a pretty fantastic minor league season. You could say that he’s sort of Magnus Paajarvi-ing his way through the season. He’s gone from 50+ games with the Edmonton Oilers his rookie season, eleven his sophomore season, and twelve this season (with more potentially on the way). What that means is this – the previous coaching/GM regime liked him out of the gate, then didn’t quite so much. Insert MacTavish/Eakins in to the mix, and they see the long and short of Lander in a different way, and are willing to dip his toe into the NHL occasionally to see how he fares. That has worked well.
But let’s talk about how he plays as a minor leaguer, and the value he has with the Edmonton Oilers.
With 98 AHL games under his belt, he is in the midst of his best pro season in North America. 39 points in 37 games is the best per game average for any player currently on the Oklahoma City Barons. That’s also a lifetime high for the 22 year old from Sundsvall, Sweden. Let’s not forget, subsequently, that this is a guy that has played 79 NHL games and notched 14 points. Although he played 56 games his rookie season, he seems to be challenged by the diminished role in the majors, and empowered by the opportunity to lead the farm team.
From a farm perspective, he’s a great player. He’s putting up Linus Omark-like point totals this season, and that’s huge for the legit centerman with many many skills. He’s good at even strength, better in the face-off circle, smart on the penalty kill, and capable on the power play. He does it all, and does it very well. Even when the team was below .500 he was the engine driving the machine. As a minor leaguer, he is fantastic.
Back to the trade block we go.
Can Anton Lander be considered a player worth trading? What would he bring in return? Will the Oilers even consider doing this or are they willing to invest in the young center? Reasonable answers coming.
Let’s be honest. He isn’t going to bring a huge return on his own, but bundled with another player (NHLer most likely) it might sweeten the deal just a bit. He’s still young, RFA at the end of the season, and so many upsides. I think he’s a valuable player lost somewhere between the AHL and NHL, and thus always worth bringing up in trade discussions. The Oilers forced Omark to toil in the minors seemingly unmoved by how dominate of a player he was at the AHL level. The same could be said for Teemu Hartikianen and Toni Rajala. All three players returned absolutely nothing to the Oilers. That’s just sad. If they are willing to give Lander a contract extension (heck, Chris VandeVelde got one) they will only do so if they find him valuable in the next season at the NHL level. Otherwise, they’ll sell him high to a suitor.
Then again, think about the limp noodle status of current prospect centers. Go ahead, look, I’ll wait. Arcobello is clearly an NHLer, and above Lander in the depth chart. If they are signing a AHL/NHL compatible centerman it will be him. Beyond that you got…Will Acton? Andrew Miller? Travis Ewanyk? Minor league contracted C.J. Stretch? Or not-yet-pro Marc-Olivier Roy, Bogdan Yakimov, or Kyle Platzer? Um, maybe trading Lander isn’t even a possibility at this point.
By comparison, look at Drew Shore, a center prospect within the Florida Panthers organization drafted in the same year as Lander. Here are their AHL/NHL stats overall side by side.
98 AHL Games
79 NHL Games
14 Points [/one_half] [one_half_last]
86 AHL Games
60 NHL Games
Interesting to see that Shore has scored slightly more in the NHL despite playing nearly twenty fewer games. The AHL point paces are nearly identical. He too is in the trade conversation in Florida for the same reason that Lander is in Edmonton. Both are prospects, capable at two levels, more dominate in the minors, but still capable. Yet both have potential value to their current team while potentially being of value to other squads whom might place them in the bottom NHL half sooner (like, maybe this season). Interesting to see the two compared.
However, if you are going to get a return on your investment, and you need a +1 to your potential trade of an NHLer, Lander certainly seems like a sweeter “get” for a team than most. So there’s that.
In short, keep Lander another season at least. Place him properly in the NHL or simply use him for call-ups. Despite his seen-him-AHL-good tendencies, and his increasing value in an open market, he ultimately will be better staying put.