Anaheim Ducks 2020 Draft Profile: Anton Lundell the Defensive Dominator

VICTORIA , BC - DECEMBER 29: Anton Lundell #29 of Finland celebrates after scoring (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
VICTORIA , BC - DECEMBER 29: Anton Lundell #29 of Finland celebrates after scoring (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

Anton Lundell is a defensive dominator the Anaheim Ducks should take a chance on at the 2020 NHL Draft.

The Anaheim Ducks have had their fair share of Finnish dominance over the years. This charge has been, of course, led by the Great 8, Teemu Selanne. His fellow countryman Saku Koivu joined us for a time and exemplified great leadership. Niklas Hagman brought his kind demeanor and “I will stab you with my skate blade” appearance to the bottom 6 group.

More recently Sami Vatanen wowed us with his ability to make the smart short pass, to put up point on the blue line as the Ducks heralded young generation of defencemen. Could this year’s top Finnish prospect, Anton Lundell, be the next player from the blessed country to grace Anaheim ice?

Lundell is a player who has risen through the junior ranks in Finland with the HIFK organization. An organization with which he has played in Finland’s top competitive league, the Liiga since the 2018-2019 season. He was 17 years old at that stage and performed solidly, which put him on the board for this year’s entry-level draft.

Ranked the 3rd best European skater by NHL central scouting, Lundell hovers around 10th (range of 8th-16th) overall by most other scouting agencies, including Elite Prospects and ISS Hockey. In many cases, this seems to be around the range most mock drafts have placed him as well.

This is likely in part due to the higher perceived upside of some of the pure goal-scoring players such as Marco Rossi, Cole Perfetti, and Alexander Holtz, as well as the apparent need to include defencemen in the top 10 like Jamie Drysdale (who deserves to be there) and Jake Sanderson. As a result, Lundell gets pushed down the list as two-way forwards aren’t typically considered “sexy” by the average fan or mock draft enthusiast.

Most of the people who put together mock drafts, however, are not Bob Murray of the Anaheim Ducks. In the past, Murray has shown a penchant for trading away goal-scoring forwards in bids to acquire more steady two-way players. Bobby Ryan for Jakob Silfverberg is one such trade.

Trading Kyle Palmieri is another that comes to mind, given Murray’s comments post-trade that he expected Palmieri would (paraphrased) “score too many goals” in future years. This would suggest that Murray could look past big-time scorers with weaker defensive games (eg Holtz) and focus on the player who has the two-way chops to be the next Patrice Bergeron, or Mikko Koivu, if you will.

Anton Lundell Draft Profile

"Born: October 3, 2001 (18yo), Espoo, FinalndNation: FinlandDraft Year Team: HIFK (Liiga)Position: CShoots: LHeight: 6’1”Weight: 187lbs/85 kg"

Defensive Dominator

So with that said, let’s start with what Lundell is best known for. His defensive excellence. Whether he’s getting down low to defend the slot or grinding along the boards, Lundell can handle it. Against grown men in Finlands toughest league no less. He’s shown an ability to cover his defencemen up high and a seemingly intrinsic knowledge of the game allowing him to make underrated and simple defensive plays.

In some respects, he shows some stylistic similarities to Patrice Bergeron who is very adept along the boards and defending the slot. Kyle Pereira of Puck Prose has also highlighted some similarities between Lundell and Bergeron’s stick work, which is simply elite. Perhaps one that has gone under the radar is a similarity to Ryan Kesler who often defended as the high forward covering for his defencemen.

Lundell is far worse on the draw than either of those players, which is a skill that many GM’s, and Selke voters, covet. Nonetheless, this provides a clear point of reference for Lundell to move forward with as his career progresses.

Focusing on this area of Lundell’s game is where I think many draft pundits have picked up and left Lundell. It’s an easy mistake to make, as many players who come into the league with elite defensive skill sets are often left to shut down matchups, and thus fail to capitalize on their strong offensive games.

On an Anaheim Ducks team, with a management focus on a strong defensive play from their forwards, this could certainly become a reality. However, Andrew Cogliano was given a shutdown role alongside Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg and was expected to score. Troy Terry over the past few years despite possibly being better suited to a defensive role has been given top 6 billing next to Ryan Getzlaf. This provides some hope that Lundell if he were to be drafted, would be provided top-6 minutes and some license to provide offensive flair.

It should be noted right out in front, that players don’t put up the offensive numbers that Lundell has, without being a driver of positive puck possession. To this effect, Lundell is able to protect the puck with his large frame and force his way through traffic to create space. This, mind you, is performed against grown men in a men’s league in which teenagers are often left to supporting roles.

"Playing in a grown man’s league, he continues to be force down low using his powerful stride to maintain possession plowing through defenders in the attack areas, creating space for his team. – Bill Placzek"

Don’t Knock His Offensive Abilities

Given the strong results he has presented thus far in Liiga, let alone junior and international play, it should be clear that Lundell can facilitate the offense. He does this showing clear creativity in the offensive zone with a strong passing acumen. At this stage of his career, this is an important showing as Lundell does struggle somewhat with his skating.

He is not fast or especially quick off the mark, and in some ways, this could be a contributing factor in pundits knocking his offensive abilities, as it’s far easier to become enamored with the players who have the speed to burn or who create separation with a quick first step. Lundell conversely, at this stage of his career is mitigating this downside by making plays quickly after receiving and controlling the puck.

It makes it that much harder for defensive players to regain possession initially, but also pucks move faster than players, and a quick play can easily develop from a well-timed pass. Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton have been showing this to Pacific teams for the past decade and more. It’s worth mention as well, that Lundell is making these plays against grown men and experienced professionals and not other junior players like so many of his fellow draft hopefuls.

Making Magic Happen

Similarly, Lundell has also been scoring his goals versus experienced and grown netminders. This is something that Alexander Holtz and to a lesser extent Tim Stutzle have been able to achieve, but not many of the top-billed offensive stars.

In many ways, this presents us with some strong evidence to what Lundell will go on to achieve, whereas the trajectory of comparative players such as Marco Rossi is perhaps slightly more uncertain. In a goal-scoring capacity, Lundell has shown presented some silky mitts and as noted by some draftniks, already has a heavy shot.

Notably, Lundell’s shot displays some accuracy in close, and it comes off the blade with some zip, meaning he doesn’t need a lot of time or space to release his shot. Furthermore, Lundell also shows a clear intent to drive to the net and is tough to knock off his feet, which Anaheim Ducks fans will appreciate. Let’s be honest, we Anaheim Ducks fans love hardnosed players who get into the dirty areas and make the magic happen.

"“The two-way left-shot forward is tough to knock off his skates on the cycle, can protect the puck extremely well and finds teammates in traffic. He had 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) and 162 shots on goal in 44 games while averaging 15:49 of ice time in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league.” –Mike G. Morreale,"

Maturity and Intelligence in Spades

All of this doesn’t necessarily mean that Lundell is an offensive force to be reckoned with, though it does present some evidence that he is a strong offensive player in his own right. I’m certain those who suggest Lundell doesn’t have the creativity to be a big-time scorer have yet to completely look into what the player has done in that space.

A further point of interest for the Anaheim Ducks is that Lundell comes across as a mature and grounded individual. Jokke Nevalainen presents an interview with him, in which that clearly comes across. However, if that were not clear from an interview alone, it’s worth noting that his current Liiga team has given him an “A” to wear for the season, making him one of the youngest in history to do so. Mikko Rantanen was the last young Finn to do so, and we all know how excellently he has turned out in his young career to date.

As most Finn’s are, it also appears that Lundell is a highly intelligent player with a firm grasp on who he is and what he wants to become. though from a player who idolized Pavel Datsyuk and practised his moves in the mirror, one should expect no less.

"”I think my strength is my strong two-way game. 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.” -Anton Lundell"

The maturity of the player will certainly appeal to Bob Murray when he evaluates his drafting options. It would be no guess to imagine Lundell wearing a letter in the NHL somewhere down the track. In many ways, Lundell can be seen as a “safe” selection in that he will likely be a long time NHL player. Something, many pundits, including Ryan Kennedy have noted.

"“Lundell is practically plug-and-play. A big center who always makes sure he takes care of his own end, Lundell will be in the NHL for a long time.” –Ryan Kennedy, the Hockey News"

A Steady Rock to Rebuild On

All things taken equally, Anton Lundell appears set to be a long time NHL player with a ceiling as high as former Selke and Stanley Cup winners, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Kesler, and Anze Kopitar. Given the hype around cup-winning two-way player Jonathon Toews, it’s easy to see why former Chicago Alumni Bob Murray would consider taking the responsible Lundell with the 6th overall draft selection.

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As a team-building exercise, both Murray and the casual fan could easily see a player of Lundell’s ilk slotting in at the 2nd line pivot spot behind an offensively orientated Trevor Zegras and above the buzzsaw work ethic of Benoit-Oliver Groulx, to give the Anaheim Ducks a formidable 1-2-3 punch down the spine.

He may not have the explosive appeal of a Marco Rossi or Alexander Holtz, however, teams would be hard-pressed to ignore Lundells skill set, as it would allow them to build a team around him as the steady rock to springboard from. For teams with aspirations towards a cup victory, Lundell’s deliberate yet hard-nosed style offers stylistic variations to deal with multiple opposition game plans.

If they need points, Lundell is no slouch. If they need a team shut down, Lundell is your go-to guy. If they need to bully a defenceman, Lundell can run through him to get to the net. If they need to snipe from long range, Lundell has the shot to get one through the keeper. I hesitate to say “swiss” army knife, as Finn’s are clearly superior to Swedes in every way, but Lundell has the tools to do whatever his team requires. He has the temperament to do it with no fuss or complaints to go with it.

I started writing this article thinking I would potentially prefer one of the goal scorers on offer in the #6 draft slot, however as the words flowed, I’ve come around to Lundell being my first choice for the Anaheim Ducks in this draft slot. Let me know what you think.

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