LHC, HIFK (Liiga)
6’1″/185 lbs, 17.95 years
Excellent spatial awareness and hockey sense:
- Anton Lundell has a preternatural ability to understand where the puck is going to be before it’s there, and finds himself anticipating just the right amount while staying in the right places to respond to any scenario that unfolds.
- Lundell’s ability to couple that awareness with his skating enables him to shift in and out of space deceptively, leaving opponents unaware of his threat level while, without making it obvious, remaining a presence for his team mates to look to as far as both playmaking and individual scoring scenarios.
- Thinks fast in high-pressure scenarios all over the ice, leaning on his hard skills (plain yet effective stickhandling, aesthetically simple yet technically precise skating, etc.) to keep his demeanor calm and collected.
Wrist shot is both low-key and perhaps his most effective weapon:
- Lundell doesn’t need too much time to get his wrist shot off, which sits lower to the ice and has less followthrough, making goaltenders’ jobs very difficult in the way they have to be ready to move before before it’s too late – and it usually is too late by the time he gets the shot off.
- Doesn’t put his entire weight into the shot, which he plays to his advantage by instead cueing it up exactly where he wants it to be in the blink of an eye and then placing it on net with pinpoint accuracy.
- The Finn isn’t overly eager to shoot first however, because he’s cognizant of when it’s better to shoot the puck or make the passing play, which further unsettles goalies because they aren’t as easily able to get a read on what his decision ultimately will be.
Well-rounded in his decision-making and compete level:
- A knowledgable and intelligent player, Lundell is aware at all times of what’s transpiring on the ice in both offensive and defensive scenarios, tying it all together with his transition play.
- Defensively not afraid to apply hard pressure preventing zone entries, take the risk of forcing a turnover, or hold back and sit tight in a more conservative posture.
- Anton Lundell’s biggest soft skill is the aforementioned decision-making and steadying presence, in the sense that he’ll assess the risk and rewards of a situation effectively and act accordingly in easy and decisive stream of consciousness.
Improved skating would add a whole new offensive dynamic:
- Let’s be completely clear here– Lundell is a clearly above-average skater and his mobility is very far from being a true weakness. In a draft with a crazy amount of high-end skating ability– Lucas Raymond, Quinton Byfield, Antonio Stranges, Alexander Holtz etc.– Lundell’s unspectacular stride looks a lot worse in comparison than it actually is.
- However, Lundell does lack a dynamic element to his game; he creates offence through intelligent play, not speed. And that’s completely fine– dynamism is far from an essential element to the creation of offence. But if Lundell can improve his foot speed to a true high-end level, he would become so much more versatile of an offensive threat. If he can start to generate consistent offence through both intelligence and speed, Lundell would become an absolutely devastating attacker.
Lundell became just the 8th forward since 1996 to suit up for a minimum of fifteen games in the Finnish Liiga as a draft-minus-one player, a group that includes Aleksander Barkov, Mikko Rantanen, and Jesse Puljujarvi. To put that in perspective– Kaapo Kakko, who went second overall in the 2019 NHL Draft just a few months ago, got into just six Liiga games in his respective pre-draft year, spending the majority of the year in Finland’s Jr. A SM-Liiga. Lundell– as an early October birthdate– is on the older side of the class, but his ability to not just play a regular role, but produce at a clip of half a point per game in a high-level professional league at 17 years old is extremely impressive.
The Finn has four points in eight games to start 2019-20 after dealing with a minor ailment at the beginning of the season, an identical rate to last year. It’s far too early to make any kind of meaningful conclusion– eight games is virtually nothing– but as an older player who might’ve gotten a little fortunate and punched above his weight class production wise in the Liiga as a DY-1 last year, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect Lundell to statistically progress a little less than the typical prospect might.
Anton Lundell is the kind of player who will certainly be going high in the draft due to his well-roundedness at such an early stage in his career (yes, he is 18, but 18 is still very young in a player’s development). He’s already put it together as far as enabling himself to perform physically in the way he clearly envisions on the ice. Both on and off the puck he’s got his wits about him, and will be NHL-ready or very close from the first game of the season. Look for this guy to make noise at camp one way or another, because even if he does find himself in the minors to start his time in North America it certainly won’t be for long.
Lundell is cool, calm, and collected in the way he handles any situation. Whether he or his comrades on the ice are dictating the play. Processing ability through the roof, he’s the kind of player who makes sensible decisions in all three zones of the ice; his defensive play is aggressive but not too much so, his transition game is quick-thinking, and once his team has set up the play. This youngster has the wisdom of the ages already, because he’s not going to force a sequence that isn’t there, but is very expansive in his understanding of what possibilities are available on the ice. He’ll play well with whatever line mates he has without stifling his own individual creativity, making whatever spot he slots in on the NHL depth chart he finds his name on a difficult one for opposing teams to defend against.
How does he make it all work? Well, despite his skating not being as aesthetically pleasing, or at least flashy, as some other top draft picks in recent years, he knows his own strength is being able to lilt here and there to the most profitable areas of the ice while retaining deliberativeness and purpose. Obviously his wrist shot is going to be his calling card, and he’s able to pull the trigger so quickly that he can score from any spot in the offensive zone – including those “dirty areas.” As far as hands go, Lundell is not especially prone to razzle-dazzle maneuvers because he doesn’t need to be. The nice thing about his concrete abilities on the ice is that one way or another, they’ll click and he’ll make it happen. Couple that with his (and I hate using this term, but it’s incredibly apt in the way it describes his fast, on-the-fly adaptability) hockey IQ, and whatever team he’s selected by come June is going to be very, very happy with him.
Photo Credit: Riku Laukkanen