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Prospect of Interest: Anton Lundell’s quiet consistency a hidden 2020 gem

No nation on hockey’s worldwide stage has loved an increase as steep and high-reaching over the previous decade as Finland. Their run on the world juniors is proof sufficient — after successful gold simply twice within the first 36 years of the match, they’ve reeled off titles in three of the previous seven tourneys.

Top prospect Anton Lundell was a key gear within the machine that was the nation’s most up-to-date successful squad in 2019, centring extremely touted wingers Kaapo Kakko and Eeli Tolvanen. The quietly dependable two-way centreman proved his price throughout that gold-medal run, substituting flash for consistency and serving to information Finland to yet one more top-spot end.

Watch Round 1 of the NHL Draft on Sportsnet and SN NOW starting at 7 p.m. ET/four p.m. PT on Tuesday, Oct. 6. Then catch Rounds 2-7 on SN1 and SN NOW beginning at from 11:30 a.m. ET/8:30 a.m. PT on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

Here’s a take a look at all you’ll want to learn about Lundell, and why he could possibly be one of the under-appreciated centremen on this draft.

Team: HIFK Helsinki (Liiga)
Position: Centre
Shoots: Left
Hometown: Espoo, Finland
Age: 19 (October 3, 2001)
Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 187 kilos

Golden Generation

A take a look at the highest offensive abilities within the sport reveals the flourishing of Finland’s finest on the NHL degree. Aleksander Barkov, Sebastian Aho, Mikko Rantanen, Patrik Laine — the record isn’t brief.

The subsequent wave of expertise becoming a member of that golden technology claimed world juniors gold in 2019. Jussi Ahokas was the pinnacle coach for that gold-medal run. And whereas his roster featured some names NHL followers could be extra conversant in — New York’s Kakko, Nashville’s Tolvanen, Florida’s Aleksi Heponiemi, Chicago’s Henri Jokiharju — Lundell’s regular play was invaluable to their success, he says.

“For me, I knew we could trust him [to make] all the smart decisions,” Ahokas says. It was the reliability of that decision-making that raised Lundell’s inventory within the eyes of the teaching workers.

“I would say his style is really high-end two-way centre. And that’s the thing — he doesn’t do flashy moves. He doesn’t catch your eye, but when you really look at him and how he plays, then you start seeing how good he actually is,” the coach continues. “His selections that he makes, they have an effect on constructive issues on the ice — it doesn’t need to be flashy.

“So, as a coach, you like him more than [if] you might have a really skilled guy who’s a flashy player, but doesn’t really give anything to the team. So that’s where I see why he’s so good.”

Though he’d gotten a glimpse of Lundell a number of years earlier, and had a superb sense of his sport coming into the match, Ahokas says {the teenager} nonetheless exceeded expectations as soon as the depth of the title run ramped up.

“How well he played in that tournament, it still surprised me, of course. He played really well,” he says. “He started really well, but in the important games, he really stepped up his game. He competes really well — he plays better when the stakes are higher. That’s how I feel.”

It’s no shock then, that the centreman — who’s a killer within the face-off circle — had a direct hand in Kakko’s purpose with a minute and a half left within the gold-medal sport, sealing the win over Team USA. While Kakko banged house the eventual winner, it was Lundell who gained the draw that preceded the point-shot on the cage, Lundell who went to the net-front and obtained a number of whacks at it earlier than shuffling it over to Kakko to tuck house.

Quiet affect, resounding consequence.

Measuring Stick

There’s no query who the highest canine of the 2020 NHL Draft is — Alexis Lafreniere has all however run away with that title. But that mentioned, when Lundell went up towards his draft class’s premier ahead, his coach noticed the younger Finn’s potential emerge.

“For me, in the under-20 tournament, he played better than Lafreniere in that tournament,” Ahokas says of Lundell.

Neither prospect essentially dominated on the scroresheet throughout the tourney, in fact, Lafreniere ending with only one level and Lundell ending with 4. But when it comes to their general sport throughout that stretch, it was Lundell who was the higher participant, in keeping with the coach who earned a gold medal partly due to it.

“Of course, Lafreniere is a great player. I haven’t seen him that much. But in that tournament — where we played against each other and I saw him play a little bit — in that tournament, in that point in time, [Lundell] was more of a player,” Ahokas says.

That’s to not say that Lundell would possibly in reality be a greater general prospect than the Rimouski Oceanic standout, however somewhat, that the hole won’t be as huge because it appears.

It definitely wouldn’t be the primary time that was the case, with Finland’s finest typically coming over as underrated hidden gems.

“Lafreniere, he’ll be a superstar. He’s a great player. But that tournament, when we were playing, [Lundell] played really well there — I would say people probably don’t know him that well,” Ahokas continues. “It goes with North America. Like Sebastian Aho, he was method underrated, he went second spherical. So, that may occur too.

“But whatever team drafts him will get a good player.”

Selke in Sight?

Like Ahokas says, the muse of Lundell’s sport his his two-way prowess — he’s a constant, simple pivot who can win face-offs, drive possession, and play in each scenario. But that accountable play causes some to miss his offensive sport, ignoring the truth that the 2 are inextricably linked.

“His hockey smarts or hockey intelligence — he reads the play really well,” Ahokas says of Lundell’s biggest strengths. “Really smart player. And he really positions himself really well on the ice. … Of course everybody says about his skating, is it good enough. But still, probably people don’t see how well he sees the ice, and how smart decisions he makes with the puck. And that’s a big thing.”

Nor ought to it’s discounted, says Ahokas, how Lundell carried out within the Finnish professional league towards grown males over the previous two seasons.

“He could play pro so well already this year — it’s totally different than playing junior league, playing pro hockey here in Europe,” says the coach, who now mans the bench for the Liiga workforce KooKoo, and thus noticed Lundell do his factor among the many professionals as effectively.

“And at the under-20s he played really well also — two tournaments, under-18s he won and under-20s he won. So, there’s lots of good things. On the physical side he’s a late developer, so he’s been developing all the time, more and more.”

While there’s room for Lundell to progress bodily, which is able to absolutely include time, his biggest attribute is one thing far tougher to realize down the road.

“The biggest thing for me is the hockey sense, and that’s [why] he can adapt well, [whatever] kind of situation it is,” Ahokas says. “That’s the hardest thing to coach, the hardest thing to get. You can always find skaters, but those who really understand the game, that’s the harder part.”

Which is why when Lundell does finally get a shot to make that bounce, he’s in line to hitch the rising record of Finnish phenoms to thrive within the North American sport. Ahokas would know, having coached a good few of them throughout this time with the nationwide program.

“I’ve coached Kakko, I’ve seen Aho, Mikko Rantanen, all the top guys who are developing right now. And I think he’s out there with the top, top guys,” says the veteran coach.

And in reality, given Lundell’s efficiency for HIFK this season and final, he would possibly actually have a leg up over these predecessors, and must be set as much as finally observe their footsteps to the NHL.

“The thing is, actually, how he played so young, but how he played in the pro league already in his draft year, not many of those guys played so well, while he did. … Going to the NHL speed, it’ll take a little bit of time. But I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to take that step.”

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