Over the course of the 2019-20 season, I will be taking a look at a variety of prospects eligible to be drafted this June at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. There is no particular ranking to these breakdowns; these prospects come from a variety of tiers. They’re meant to keep you updated on a multitude of potential selections this summer and will complement my forthcoming and extensive coverage of the entry draft.
Previous breakdowns on a variety of draft prospects can be found below:
Next, I’ll move into the top echelon of the first round with Finnish skater Anton Lundell.
Anton Lundell - F
HIFK [Liiga] - 18 - Espoo, Finland
What might initially stand out about Lundell’s career statistics is his 25 points in the Finnish Liiga this year, but his impressive offensive production hasn’t been mitigated at any level. As a 16-year old, Lundell scored eight goals and 20 points in 22 Jr. A SM-liiga games - a league dominated by 18+ skaters. He also finished tied for fifth in tournament scoring that year at the World U17 Hockey Challenge with seven points in five games.
Lundell graduated to the Liiga in 2018-19, after a 1.5 point-per-game pace to start the year, and scored nine goals and 19 points for HIFK at 17 years of age. At the international level, Lundell impressed with three goals and eight points in 12 combined games with Finland’s U18 and U20 teams at the World Junior Championships.
Updated points comparison graph on Anton Lundell. He’s a tad behind Kakko and Laine right now but steadily putting up good numbers anyway. #2020NHLdraft #NHLdraft pic.twitter.com/svf7NQH9pb— Miika Arponen (@MiikaArponen) February 19, 2020
Lundell has been a force in the Liiga this year with 25 points in 36 games for HIFK - a scoring pace that’s just behind Aleksander Barkov, Kaapo Kakko and Patrik Laine in their draft years.
The 18-year old is averaging 15:34 of ice time per game - just 10th of all HIFK forwards - but leads the team (and almost all of the league) with a 62.8% Corsi rating. After returning from an injury that forced him out of the 2020 World Junior Championship, Lundell has slowly earned more special teams assignments, particularly on the penalty kill.
Lundell’s Scouting Report
|Impressive defensive awareness and ability for a skater his age||Isn't an exceedingly quick skater but has an average to above-average skating stride|
|Underrated passer who delivers pucks quickly but intelligently, too||Might get beat by others with a better touch of puck skills but maintains good positioning|
|Great understanding of puck support and time & space at both ends of the ice||A team could pigeon-hole him as a defensive, middle-six center if not careful|
There has been a palpable sense of concern in the scouting community that Lundell doesn’t have enough elite offensive ability and that his ceiling is limited to a defensive middle-six center. I think Scott Wheeler (of The Athletic) put it best:
“We often mistake versatility or a sound two-way game as meaning Player X may project in a third-line role. And while that’s true for some players, it’s a long way from an honest assessment of Lundell’s game.”
I have no concerns about Lundell’s (#15, red) physical frame; he’s a big 6’1” and uses his body efficiently for puck protection. My favorite part of his game, however, is his puck support abilities. He’s constantly drifting, thinking of where the puck is headed next and searching for open ice. It’s a skill that provides good separation from his opponents and prevents unnecessary puck battles.
In the clip above, Lundell heads right to the net front off the draw; one could maybe prefer he head to the half-wall to alleviate the defender’s crowded shooting lane, but he quickly recovers the rebound in that space anyway. After making a quick decision near the blue line to keep the puck in, he drifts to the net again before providing that support along the wall. His positioning and stick work allow him to out-maneuver three defenders for a scoring chance.
Above is another example of Lundell’s puck support abilities: he’s constantly adjusting as the opposition takes and gives passing lanes. As his teammate breaks out the puck, he doesn’t assume any stretch pass will work and adjusts his swing through the neutral zone to maintain possession. Lundell always seems just a few strides away from great defensive positioning and creating an offensive chance. Above, he sits back as the puck heads up the boards, ready to defend a breakout, but quickly attacks as Forward-One when the puck is reversed, causing a turnover in the process.
Offensively, Lundell may not flash with highlight-reel dekes, but his puck movement and transition from forecheck to offensive pressure is so smooth. In the clip above, notice how he uses his body and stick to close off two different lanes for the defender. After recovering the turnover, Lundell buries the puck with a wrist shot that rolls off the blade with incredible speed.
In the clip above, I like how forward Lundell is with creating his own passing lines; with his stick on the ice during transition, he’s helping direct play and passes up the ice. After a quick touch pass, Lundell assists on a high-danger scoring chance. What’s more noticeable for me, however, is how he applies the ensuing forecheck: his ability to read breakout attempts can be seen when he anticipates the defender reversing the puck and helps seal off a controlled zone exit.
There’s a danger to all of this, though. As Scott Wheeler noted, defensive prowess could narrow the parameters of what people see as Lundell’s strengths. On either hand, however, I think Lundell is set up nicely: he’s either evaluated (properly) as a top-six, two-way scoring center or taken as a defensive specialist that ultimately surprises the league with his playmaking.
Expected Pick Range
Colin Cudmore (@CudmoreColin) over at silversevensens.com has done remarkable work compiling draft rankings and establishing an ‘Expected Pick Range’ from a variety of different sources. You can read about his methodology here, track the compiled rankings here, and use his data viz (embedded below) here.
Lundell’s Expected Pick Range: #4 to #10 — 1st Round
It’s hard to overstate how impressive Lundell’s consistent offensive production has been, at every level, among players several years his senior. The top tier of 2020 NHL Entry Draft prospects is a crowded field and that plethora of options could cause Lundell to fall. Regardless, he’s undoubtedly a top-ten talent.
All statistics are courtesy of eliteprospects.com and liiga.fi. Thank you to prospectshifts.com for providing some of the Liiga game footage used.