Anton Lundell is one of the top players available for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, and definitely the best out of Finland. Despite his young age, he has already impressed at the professional level in Finland as well as internationally, having won two gold medals already. Here’s my Deep Dive on him.
Name: Anton Lundell
Date of Birth: October 3rd 2001
Place of Birth: Espoo, Finland
Height: 6’1” (185 cm)
Weight: 183 lbs (83 kg)
#4 by Cam Robinson / DobberProspects
#4 by Future Considerations
#4 by HockeyProspect.com
#6 by Corey Pronman / The Athletic
#9 by Bob McKenzie / TSN Hockey
#9 by Craig Button / TSN Hockey
To start off, I think it’s best to start with Lundell’s own characterization of the type of player he is and what his strengths are. ”I think my strength is my strong two-way game,” Lundell said. “As a playmaker, I can create scoring chances for my linemates and me, and dictate the pace of the game. I’m also strong on faceoffs, and that’s always important to get the puck to your own team.”
For another view, I also interviewed former NHL player (95 games with the Edmonton Oilers) and current Captain of Lundell’s club team HIFK, winger Lennart Petrell. “Reading the play and passing are clear strengths for him. He’s a very smart and skilled player,” Petrell said. “Reads the game very well.”
Lundell is known as a very analytical player, so it comes as no surprise that he has a very good grasp of his strengths and the type of player he is. Because of the type of player he is, it’s also not that difficult to guess who his biggest NHL idol has been. ”Pavel Datsyuk is one idol I’ve been following. I’ve watched a lot of games and videos of him, and tried to practice some of his tricks on my own time,” Lundell said.
But he also brought up another name which is even less of a surprise. “I also think Aleksander Barkov is a very creative player and does great things on the ice. He’s very noticeable in a good way but also a very responsible two-way player,” Lundell said. “I like watching video clips and games of those two.”
When you grow up idolizing smart and responsible two-way centers like Datsyuk and Barkov, it’s no surprise you end up playing a similar style as those two. Lundell is the type of player who never cheats for offense, and just like his idols, he can make a lot of things happen offensively while at the same time being very responsible defensively.
To get a better understanding of the type of person Lundell is off the ice, I figured there’s no better person to ask than a seasoned veteran like Petrell. “Anton is a balanced individual both on and off the ice. A smart player and a smart person. Very well-liked in the dressing room. Very similar to his father: smart and calm,” Petrell said.
Anton’s father Jan was a long-time professional goalie in Europe, and Petrell actually played on the same HIFK team with him for a few years – must be a nice experience to play with both the father and the son.
Now that we’ve covered Lundell’s strengths, it’s time to take a look at the areas where he needs to show improvements. For this, I went back to the man himself and asked him about his focus areas this past summer. ”I focused on adding strength, and skating was another theme I focused on,” Lundell said. “The game is getting faster and faster, and skating is one aspect that everyone can work on. It’s one of those things that’s never good enough.”
Skating is by far the most common criticism I’ve heard about Lundell, so it’s no surprise he’s aware of that already. I asked what type of things he’s planning on doing to improve his skating. ”When I get more power, it will allow me to be even faster on the ice. Then there are also some small changes to my skating technique which allow me to be better, to get out of turns more quickly,” Lundell explained. “I trained with a small group of players in the summer, and we had a couple of skating coaches there as well.”
Before we look ahead, let’s take a quick look backwards to see what Lundell has accomplished over the past couple of years.
At age 16, Lundell mostly played at the Jr. A SM-liiga level which is the top junior league in Finland. While there, he put up eight goals and 20 points in 22 games. At the international level, he was the top player on his team at his age group at the U17 World Hockey Challenge where he put up three goals and seven points in five games.
And as if that wasn’t enough, he also played an important third line center role at the U18 Worlds as an underager and put up two goals and six points in seven games, and took home a gold medal. It was incredible how reliable and responsible he was defensively while being able to put up points as well – all while playing against players who were, for the most part, at least a year older than him. At this point, Lundell had become a household name in Finland, and a lot of draft-enthusiasts around the world started to take notice as well.
At age 17, Lundell mostly played at the Liiga level and put up nine goals and 19 points in 38 games. He played a middle-six role and was used both at center and at wing. He averaged 14:23 of ice time per game, with a little less than two minutes of that coming on the power play. He also had a very encouraging 54.9 Corsi percentage which was definitely a positive sign.
At the international level, he became a household name in North America when he was used as the second line center for Finland at the World Junior Championship. While there, he put up four points in seven games and once again took home a gold medal. He also once again represented Finland at the U18 Worlds where he was given a leadership role. Lundell was one of the top players on the team and put up four points in five games but it was a disaster of a tournament for the team.
Lundell is expected to spend this entire season at the Liiga level, and this time he is also expected to stay at his natural center position all season long. He has started as the number three center for HIFK. He is not used on the penalty kill but is getting time on the second power play unit. This type of usage is far from ideal – and very similar to his previous season – as most expected him to be a top-six center with top power play time and penalty kill duties as well. But the season has just started and he has a lot of time to earn a bigger role on the team.
Points-wise, it is reasonable to expect Lundell to improve from the half a point per game average he had last season. But at the same time, it is good to keep expectations at a realistic level. Kaapo Kakko had a monster season last year when he put up 0.84 points per game, so if Lundell can get close to that number, that would be a great season for him.
Captain Petrell was not shy about his expectations for Lundell this season. “I would like to see him take a big role and be courageous on the ice; bring his own personality and leadership to the rink,” Petrell said. “You’ll never know how rapid his development is going to be and at what level he’ll play by the end of this season. He just needs to be courageous when he gets the opportunity, and when he’s playing with good players around him, anything can happen.”
I asked if Lundell has any individual goals for this season. ”I will try to improve my play all the time, to develop and become a smarter player. Small steps forward all the time, that’s my goal for this season,” Lundell said.
Because Lundell is a high-profile player and it is his draft season, there will be lots of NHL scouts watching his every game. I asked if that brings any additional pressure to game situations. ”My job is to play as well as I can and focus on always being ready in games,” Lundell said. “In practice, I will develop myself and do my best to make sure I can get the best out of myself in games and I can show to everyone where my level of play is.”
As we saw from the rankings in the beginning of the article, Lundell is a projected top ten pick with definite top five potential. He is on the older side for his draft class, and he also plays a very mature and reliable two-way game, so it’s reasonable to think he could jump straight to the NHL after he’s drafted.
Will Lundell play in Finland after this season? “I hope not,” Petrell answered with a smile on his face. “We would be happy to keep him for the rest of his career but it’s our common goal to get players developed and young players moving forward in their careers.”
And that is exactly what Lundell is doing – developing and moving forward in his career. Whoever is lucky enough to draft him next summer will get a reliable two-way player with potential to develop into a very good number one center and possibly even a Selke Trophy contender – I can think of a few teams that wouldn’t mind adding a player like that to their lineup.
And that’s all for now, thanks for reading. Feel free to add comments below. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
Main picture courtesy of HIFK.fi