Drafted just last year at 12th overall, Florida Panthers prospect Anton Lundell had a lot of excitement float his way through his international competition and his Liiga play. It’s been so great to watch, that general manager Bill Zito even said he would “get him myself”. On June 7, he put those words into action as the Panthers inked Lundell to his three-year, entry-level deal. Now, typically when a prospect is signed, he’ll normally play in the AHL for a few years to hone his skills. However, Lundell is far too talented to be sent down to Charlotte and needs to be a plug-in the moment the next season starts.
The Numbers Don’t Lie
As previously mentioned, Lundell has blown away audiences with his performances throughout Finland and on the international stage. His numbers only back up this statement.
During his three seasons in Liiga with HIFK Helsinki, he put up a career total of 72 points (35 goals, 37 assists) through 108 total games. This past season alone was outstanding for him, as he averaged nearly a point a game with 25 points (16 goals, 9 assists) through 26 regular-season games. He even wore the gold helmet, signifying him as the team’s leading point scorer, for a short period of time. During his time in the playoffs, he piled up three points (one goal, two assists) through eight games and won the bronze medal for HIFK that season.
His tournament play was not that much different. In the IIHF World Junior Championships earlier this year, he was tied for third among all players in points with 10 (six goals, four assists) through seven games. He also helped lead Finland to a bronze medal in that tournament. In the recent IIHF World Championship, he totaled seven points (four goals, three assists) through 10 games and helped lead his home country to a silver medal. His statistics alone show just how hungry he is to crack an NHL lineup this upcoming fall.
He’s Played With and Against Current and Former NHL Players
In his time in both international and Finnish league play, Lundell has encountered other players that have made their name known in the NHL or are upcoming stars in the future, such as Jussi Jokinen and Owen Power. Not only has he put up points in Liiga and international tournaments against those formally part of or rising up in the NHL, but it’s also more than likely he’s learned a thing or two from them. Especially at the young age of 19, turning 20 on Oct. 3, he should know enough about what is going to come at him when he hits the ice in a Panthers uniform.
Center Depth Will Be Stronger
Ever since the team traded away former center Vincent Trocheck, they have struggled to find an adequate second-line center. While Zito did go out and grab a center in Sam Bennett this past trade deadline, there’s no guarantee he’ll be back, as he’s a restricted free agent this upcoming offseason. Additionally, center Alex Wennberg will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. Furthermore, center Noel Acciari has one year left on his current deal with no signs of a possible extension. With pieces potentially missing in the lineup for next season and the year following, Lundell should at least be given a chance to make his mark on the team as a potential long-term solution.
If head coach Joel Quenneville likes what he sees from Lundell in training camp, him being called into the lineup will make their depth at center much stronger and more balanced. They could be rolling with Lundell, Aleksander Barkov, Bennett, and Noel Acciari – that set of centers will be very hard to compete against throughout the NHL, and doesn’t even include the other centers they have in the pipeline, in case someone goes down in Juho Lammiko and Eetu Luostarinen.
Lundell Is Already Confirmed for Camp, Will He Get a Spot?
Lundell has already made a name for himself across the world. This upcoming training camp will be his next big test to becoming a star in the NHL. More than likely, he will shine through camp as he has all the tools he needs to succeed. As mentioned earlier, Zito is extremely excited to bring him here. Even if he doesn’t make it out of camp, he will be the main star in the lineup in a couple of years after he develops in the minors. But if Florida wants to succeed, he should be on the opening night roster this upcoming October.