Hendrix Lapierre, Lukas Reichel, Sam Colangelo, Jacob Perreault, Justin Barron, Jeremie Poirier
Today, we’re transitioning back to a familiar realm, looking at a European forward who’s played against men and not looked too shabby in doing so.
One of the aspects about taking a forward like, say, Lukas Reichel, that has me the most excited is that these types of players have been put in proper senior level hockey leagues and have succeeded. With Reichel, he’s had time to play fairly significant minutes and develop in the German DEL, which is one of the top five leagues in Europe, excluding the KHL which is at the top but also spans multiple countries.
Just below the DEL in that ranking board is the Finnish Liiga, the top division in Finland. Though in recent years the DEL (and German hockey as a whole) has improved, Liiga is still one of the most competitive divisions in Europe and it’s hockey federation serves as one of the founding members to the European Champions Hockey League (along with Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria). This is all suffice to say that succeeding in the Liiga is no small feat.
At the ages of 17 and 18, Anton Lundell has featured for HIFK (Helsinki) in fairly significant minutes, has competed very well versus men at such a young age, and has looked far above his age-related peers in international juniors competitions. Lundell may be a fairly skilled player, but his hands aren’t as quick nor does his skill flash as much as Lukas Reichel (though that was always going to be the case since Lundell plays center and Reichel is a wing). However, Lundell’s hockey sense is equally as good, if not better, and his style of play is more adaptive to withstand playing physically.
Let’s take a look:
What do the stats say?
In 2019-20, Lundell played in 44 Liiga games, scoring 28 points (10 goals and 18 assists). This was good enough for 77th most in the league, and it is fair to say that a points pace above 0.5 per game for an 18-year-old in a top senior division is very impressive.
In 2018-19, he scored 19 points in 38 Liiga games as a 17-year-old in his first year in the league. He also played in the World Junior Championships that year, where he scored four points in seven games for Finland.
Lundell has always been a capable, but not elite point producer, even in his junior league days. He is more so a two-way player who does a lot of little things correctly, the type of player that coaches adore. I’ve seen him stylistically be compared to Patrice Bergeron, and if he lives up to anywhere close to his potential, the Flyers could have two shutdown, two-way centers bolstering the lineup. Scary stuff.
The Eye Test
Lundell doesn’t flash the same type of skill level as Lukas Reichel, but similarly, he does nearly everything on the ice to at least an effective level, though differentiates himself from Reichel in that he is more physical and plays better defense.
Lundell’s offensive game sees him primarily as the provider, and he is a good passer who can show elements of creativity due to his very good hockey intelligence. However, he does have the tendency to make the simple play over something more ambitious, which coaches love, though it left me personally feeling let down. I wish he would try more plays like this and use his skill assets to his full advantage, because he clearly has the ability to do so!
Anton Lundell with a beautiful behind the back blind pass to get an assist for HIFK goal. A little change in his line has worked well as Lundell has been constantly an offensive threat in the third period. #2020NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/CmIRJEsuOY— Juha Rapanen (@jrabane) September 20, 2019
To quote Corey Pronman:
“When you watch him, though, his game can look bland...while I see flashes of great creativity from him as a handler and passer, I wouldn’t say that’s consistent.”
Speaking of hockey intelligence, that is Lundell’s strongest asset. He sees the ice very well and when he shows his creativity, it’s clear what makes him so effective in the Liiga. He isn’t going to wow you by stick handling past three defenders, but he regardless is able to impact play just as effectively.
Anton Lundell sees the KalPa PK unit paying too much attention to the left side. This allows Lundell to do whatever he wants.— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) June 15, 2020
Skates up to the blue line (that I drew), calls for the pass and a quick release.
Reads the game so well.
Powered by @InStatHockey pic.twitter.com/UVFAu43vKp
Lundell, like I said, is primarily a passer, but he has a decent shot that he can get off quickly. It isn’t anything groundbreaking, but he uses his vision of the ice to get to areas where that isn’t going to matter much since he’s all but guaranteed to score. He isn’t picking corners from midrange because he doesn’t need to.
Lundell’s game can be summarized best as a two-way style of hockey where he’ll do a lot of little things that aren’t always very noticeable, but those things near always lead to chances either for himself or teammates. He also does this consistently at both even strength, and on the power play and penalty kill (he plays both for HIFK).
I love this sequence from Anton Lundell (#2020NHLDraft) where he covers for his defender and then scores off the rush. His stride seems to lack power towards the end but he is at the end of a decent length shift. pic.twitter.com/lkYoxsOUn9— Tony Ferrari (@theTonyFerrari) July 23, 2019
One small aspect of Anton Lundell’s game that I’ve noticed is how good he is at breaking the puck out along the wall.— Sam (@DraftLook) July 9, 2019
Here’s an example: Lundell lifts his opponent’s stick, preventing him from picking off the pass and allowing Lundell to pivot freely for an easy zone exit. pic.twitter.com/X3xvrz91GS
Lundell does have faults in that his skating could be improved. He doesn’t have great speed and his work on his edges could be improved. He isn’t a terrible skater by any means, but he is a bit clunky out of the gate and that will need to be worked on in the future.
Additionally, as Pronman had expressed earlier, he doesn’t do anything with the puck outright poorly, and there aren’t many holes in his game playing against men, but sometimes he can look bland and you’re left wondering why he doesn’t flash the skills we know he is capable of more often. His skill was never going to be as apparent as someone playing in a junior league who is that good at the game of hockey, but we’ve seen him pull of crazy passes in Liiga!
Instead of looking at a good two-way center with so-so skill, we could be looking at a much more intriguing prospect. Regardless, however, Lundell has the making of a Selke trophy candidate of the future, though I’d still love to see his playmaking, stickhandling side flourish more.