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Anton Lundell: 2020 NHL Draft Prospect Profile | A potentially elite all-around center out of Liiga

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There are a lot of great prospects near the top of this draft with a varying range of styles. Anton Lundell represents the “elite two-way center” category with a game that features both scoring punch and great defensive instincts/positioning.

USA v Finland: Gold Medal Game - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

Who is Anton Lundell?

Anton Lundell is a Finnish center who has played most of his past two seasons in Finland’s top men’s league, the Liiga. A player who has risen through the junior ranks in Finland in the HIFK organization, he now plays for HIFK’s top club where he broke in in 2018-19 as a 17-year old. Lundell was born in Espoo, Finland on October 3, 2001, making him one of the older first-year eligible prospects in this draft. Lundell has been highly considered for a while, given that he was already performing solidly in Liiga in his draft-1 season at age 17. In his 82 games in Liiga over the past two years, Lundell has put up a strong 47 points (19g, 28a) while boasting a strong two-way game to go with it. His career stats up to this point from Elite Prospects are shown below.

Anton Lundell career stats
via Elite Prospects

Lundell boasts quite a complete package as a player. He constantly gets the “two-way” label from evaluators, which can sometimes be cause for concern about a player’s ceiling or even almost feel like a backhanded complement when talking top prospects. Lundell doesn’t seem to have too hard of a time scoring in Liiga as a teenager, though, and while there may not be Lafreniere-type upside to his game, his offense doesn’t necessarily look like a weakness. To wit, he is fourth in scoring rate for U21 players in Liiga and first by a mile among U19 draft-eligible players.

Lundell has been a staple on Finland’s international teams and has picked up gold medals in World Juniors competition as a part of both the U18 and U20 Finland squads. Lundell contributed 4 points in 7 games as a 17-year-old and was the youngest player on the squad in Finland’s 2018-19 gold medal run at U20 WJCs (that was the team captained by Devils prospect Aarne Talvtie). Lundell unfortunately missed this year’s U20 tournament with an injury, but his international body of work is plenty strong without it.

Overall, Lundell looks about as solid as they come as an all-around prospect. Based on the profiles available for him, he may not have the high-level creativity and playmaking of some of his top-ranked forward counterparts, but his straightforward approach, his decision-making, and a good shot seem to yield pretty strong offensive results, regardless. Add in his reportedly elite two-way abilities and he makes a convincing case as a top-10 prospect and a tremendous asset for the team that drafts him.

Where is Lundell Ranked?

Lundell lands in a decently wide range of slots in the rankings of various scouting services. His injury that caused him to miss the World Juniors probably led to him getting dinged a bit in the midseason rankings, but the more recent rankings seem to put him fairly consistently in the back half of the top-10. If the Devils end up with Arizona’s pick this year, and it lands around #10 in the end, Lundell could be a great get in that spot.

#4 — NHL Central Scouting, European Skaters (Midterm)

#6 — Future Considerations (March)

#11 — McKeen's Hockey (Mid-season)

#7 — EliteProspects.com (February)

#8 — ISS Hockey (March)

#10 — The Draft Analyst (March)

#13 — HockeyProspect.com (January)

What Others are Saying About Anton Lundell

We’ll start things off with Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst, who has pulled together comprehensive profiles on most of the players slated for the first round at this point. Kournianos likes Lundell’s defensive game as many others do, but he’s also pretty high on his offensive game, citing his strength and decisiveness which allows him to back off defenders and push through contact, even in a league where he is one of the youngest players. Here’s an excerpt:

Lundell has the makings of an excellent top-six center at the NHL level. He is constantly involved in the play in one form or another and he uses his size, strength, reach, and sound positioning to overwhelm the toughest of Finnish league veterans. Although he isn’t physically intimidating or a punishing hitter, Lundell definitely plays a North-South game predicted on tenacity on the puck and making plays in traffic. It’s always good to see a defensively-responsible center like Lundell attack the middle of the ice with controlled aggression and make snap decisions to exploit gaps in coverage. Thus, opposing defenders seem to afford him far too much room at their line, and Lundell is more than willing to advance into space and whistle a wrister on net.

Kournianos goes on to praise Lundell’s skating and shot as well as his positioning and anticipation on defense. Overall, not a lot of holes described in Lundell’s game, which is encouraging.

Elsewhere, Will Scouch of Scouching had this to say in his fall roundup of his rankings:

Anton Lundell might not have a massive ceiling, but he could be a fantastic two-way centre who may not get fans out of their seats often, but he could be a person hockey nerds and coaches alike love. He pushes possession extremely well and should be a valuable NHLer for years, if not on boxes of cereal across the league.

This is the type of description that can sometimes give me pause with a prospect as I am inherently a bit skeptical of the “high floor” framing for players (though that dreaded phrase is not explicitly used here). It’s also a good example of the way praise for a player in Lundell’s mold can feel backhanded. Lundell’s scoring numbers are impressive enough, though, that it tempers some of my typical concerns and makes him feel more like someone with real elite two-way potential rather than a Mike McLeod redux.

Over at The Hockey Writers, Chris Faria pushes back on some of the assessments that question the ceiling for Lundell. This profile emphasizes his elite hockey sense and smarts as a player that puts him in the right spots on the ice to consistently make plays. He gets into it in this passage:

When you watch Lundell play, there are a couple of things that stand out almost immediately. First and foremost, he seems to always be in the right spot at the right time. He’s not the fleetest of foot (though he skates well enough), but he uses his excellent hockey sense and anticipation to read the play. He often scores goals by getting to the open space at just the right time, and he consistently makes quick, smart passes to set up his teammates.

Lundell does give off strong “safe pick” vibes, which, again, is something that would normally give me pause in the range he’s projected to go, but it seems like his ceiling as a player is still quite high, even without a specific ‘wow’ skill to hang his hat on. Strong hockey instincts can be tough to teach and Lundell appears to have them in spades.

A Little Video

There are some solid video scouting reports out there on Lundell that give you a pretty good picture of Lundell’s game and what makes him the type of prospect he is. Here are two good ones from Draft Dynasty and Steve Kournianos’ Prospect Film Room channel:

An Opinion of Sorts

It’s pretty clear to see what type of player Lundell projects as at the next level. Yes, he’s a two-way center, but he definitely has some offensive chops to go with it. To me, he’s a center that fits somewhere along the Jonathan Toews-Jordan Staal-Travis Zajac continuum. For his ceiling, it’s not too much of a stretch to see him developing into a Selke-contending center like a Toews or Patrice Bergeron that can put up 70 or so points in a good season. Even if he doesn’t reach those heights, though, he can still be a valuable part of a team’s top-six as a solid shutdown 2C with scoring ability. There are some really good players to be had in the top-10 of this year’s draft and they vary quite a bit stylistically. Lundell might not quite crack the top-five range, but he seems about as well-rounded as any prospect in this draft. If the Devils grab him in the back half of the top-10 with one of their picks, that would be a strong selection, and if they have a pick outside of the top-10 and he fell to them there, he could be something of a steal.

Your Take

What are your thoughts on Anton Lundell as a prospect? Where would he fit into your top-10? How do you feel he stacks up against some of the other prospects at the top of this draft? Do you like his well-rounded game or do you prefer some of the more standout playmakers? Sound off with your thoughts below and thanks for reading.