In a season highlighted by breakout rookie seasons across the league, Anton Lundell has managed to fly under the radar. As the season wraps up and awards conversations pick up, his name has not been mentioned enough.
Each year, the NHL awards the Calder Memorial Trophy (known colloquially as the Calder) to the best rookie performer in the NHL. Former winners include Panthers Aaron Ekblad and Johnathan Huberdeau. This year, the Panthers have yet another rookie worthy of receiving this award: Anton Lundell.
In all likelihood, Lundell will not win the Calder. The likes of Trevor Zegras, Lucas Raymond, and Moritz Seider have received too much national attention comparatively. Still, his impact matches, and maybe even exceeds, that of his peers. Hypothetically, if the league wanted to give the Calder to Lundell, this would be the case.
Anton Lundell has the raw stats
Currently, Lundell has 18 goals and 25 assists on the year. This puts him fifth among rookies with 43 points. While that may not stand out initially, keep in mind injuries have limited Lundell to 61 games this season. All the players above him have played over 70.
Additionally, Lundell averages less than 16 minutes on ice per game. Compare that to Zegras and Raymond who average about 18 minutes per game. I am ignoring Seider’s TOI numbers since defensemen typically play more minutes on average. Once the points are adjusted for ice time, the stats become eerily similar. Lundell scores 2.66 points per 60 minutes, almost a dead lock with Zegras’s 2.68 points per 60, and well above Raymond’s 2.41.
This discrepancy is a product of the team around him. The Florida Panthers have an other-worldly forward corps, which means he gets less ice time. It also means he gets no regular power play time, unlike his counterparts. Seider, Zegras, and Raymond all average over two and a half minutes of power play time a game.
Simply put, factors out of Lundell’s control contributed to the points discrepancy shown. Given the same opportunity, Lundell would match, if not exceed, the production of the other Calder contenders.
He is also a defensive specialist
When people call Anton Lundell a miniature Aleksander Barkov, this is the sticking point. On the defensive side of the puck, few rookies have been as effective as Lundell. The coaching staff has taken notice, and use him as a regular on the penalty kill.
Lundell averages almost two and a half minutes of penalty kill time per game. This number is fourth among rookies, and far more than any other rookie in the Calder race. That defensive responsibility does not show up in the box score, but should be considered in the discussion. Lundell has also notched four short-handed points this season, a top-10 mark in the league.
This strong defensive play contributes to winning more than any single statistic can show. Lundell’s ability to shut down opposing attacks while not sacrificing any offensive output puts him in a rare class of player. His +33 rating leads all rookies by a landslide, and shows the type of impact he has on both ends of the ice.
Lundell makes those around him better
A big part of the Panthers’ dominance this season has been their forward depth. Specifically, the third line of Anton Lundell, Sam Reinhart, and Mason Marchment has been the best bottom 6 line in the entire league.
As the center of this line, Lundell controls much of the pace and flow they play with. His poise and control on the ice has played a huge part in his wingers having career years.
Sam Reinhart was already an established player before joining the Panthers. With Buffalo, Reinhart scored 20 goals and topped 50 points consistently. In his first season in Florida, however, Reinhart has reached new career highs with 28 goals and 48 assists in 73 games. His play has been stellar, but Lundell should receive credit for developing such good chemistry and putting him in places to succeed.
The same can be said about Mason Marchment, who is having a breakout year. In his first full year in the NHL, Marchment has totaled 42 points in 51 games. The 26 year old came to Florida two years ago in a trade with Toronto. After some flashes last year, Marchment has become a genuine offensive threat once the team placed him on a line with Lundell.
As I said earlier, there is little to no chance of Anton Lundell winning the Calder. Zegras has scored too many Michigan goals, and Seider has doled out too many big hits for Lundell to be seriously considered. All of this is to say that anyone who overlooks the impact Lundell has had on the best team in the eastern conference is doing themselves a disservice. He has the most complete game of anyone in this rookie class, and for my money, should be a Calder Trophy contender.
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