The 2020 NHL Entry Draft is coming up, and this year’s draft class has the potential to be one of the best in recent memory. For the next month, we will be profiling each of the top prospects available in the draft — many of whom could be candidates to be selected by the Minnesota Wild. Follow along as we dive deep into the strengths and weaknesses of each notable player eligible to be drafted this June.
What if I told you that in the NHL Draft, one of the prospects the Wild could potentially look at is a solid, two-way centerman from Finland who is great in the faceoff dot, a decent if not flashy skater, uses his size to his advantage and has the potential to be a Selke candidate one day?
Would you think it’s a scouting report from 2001 prospect Mikko Koivu? Or 2020 potential draft pick Anton Lundell? The surprise answer is it could very well be both. Lundell, the 6’1, 187-pound centerman from Espoo, Finland, could very well be a replacement for Koivu should the long-time Wild captain decide to retire or move on after his contract is up at the end of this season. Lundell has the size of a young Mikko Koivu, who was 6’2, 183 pounds heading into the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, plays a similar game to his fellow countryman, and is a strong if not elegant skater, like Koivu. But Lundell also has two things that the Kaptain doesn’t possess — a wicked wrister, and the propensity to use it.
2019-20 season review
This past year marked Anton Lundell’s first full season in Finland’s Liiga, the highest level of hockey in the country. Playing for HIFK, Lundell earned 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 44 games against top competition, earning over 15 minutes of ice time per game. Lundell was second in the league in Corsi among forwards at 61.8 percent, and won 53 percent of his faceoffs. HIFK finished the regular season in sixth place, good enough for a playoff spot. However, like many leagues around the world, Liiga canceled their playoffs due to concerns surrounding COVID-19.
Lundell played in the U-18 and U-20 World Juniors for Team Finland in 2018-19 and was selected for the roster for the Finnish team that won gold at the 2019 World Juniors, but unfortunately could not participate due to injury.
The idea of a 200-foot player is thrown around a lot, but Anton Lundell has the hockey sense, the drive, the skating, and the size to be dominant on both ends of the ice, often in the same play. The following clip clearly emphasizes his two-way ability. Lundell (15 in white) carries the puck up the ice, passes it off and then drives to the net for a quality scoring chance. As the opposing team leaves the zone, Lundell is one of the first ones back to pressure the play, using his active stick to break up a cross-ice pass.
Offensively, scouts note Lundell’s great hands and quick release on his wrist shot, which allows him to beat veteran goaltenders at the elite level of the Liiga. And considering he averages just shy of four shots per game in about 15 minutes TOS, you can see that he tends to take the shot himself when he gets the opportunity.
The knocks on his game are few, but most of them deal with his skating. While Lundell possesses a long, powerful stride and decent speed, his agility, especially in the open ice, is a step below some of the prospects rated ahead of him. His anticipation and high IQ frequently make up for this, as Lundell is usually already in the ideal position, lessening his need of agility or acceleration to get there. And if he already has the puck, good luck getting him off it, as his strength and balance prevent opponents from pushing him around.
And though he’s known more for his shoot-first mentality over his playmaking skills, I just had to include this beautiful behind-the-back pass to set up a teammate’s open net goal...
If the Wild or other NHL teams are looking for a plug-and-play, ready-made NHL pivot with a high floor and a certain (if not guaranteed) amount of elite potential, Anton Lundell would make a solid selection in the bottom half of the top 10. And while Minnesota also has needs all over the ice — including in the crease — center will definitely be one of them, especially with Koivu and Eric Staal’s careers soon coming to an end. Lundell may be available around the time the Wild select around No. 11 overall, and selecting him would ensure the team has a strong and reliable two-way (and Finnish, to boot) centerman for another decade.