Anton Lundell settling in with Florida Panthers quite nicely, thank you
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WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — The Florida Panthers erupted for eight goals in the Prospect Showcase game on Sunday morning so one would think center Anton Lundell had his name all over the scoresheet.
Lundell had one assist.
And that is just fine.
“He had the puck a lot and was making plays,” Charlotte Checkers coach Geordie Kinnear said. “He makes the players around him better and that’s the sign of a great player.”
Lundell, the Panthers’ first-round draft pick in 2020, played yet another solid game with the Florida rookies.
He played big as the Panthers hope he will, pushed the play as they are counting on him to do and was very strong on face-offs and on the penalty kill.
Lundell, one may need to be reminded, has spent his entire life in Finland until about three weeks ago when he flew to Florida to start his new life with the Panthers.
When development camp first started last week, Lundell pointed to playing in these games as helping him adjust to the smaller ice of the NHL. It does take some getting used to.
His true indoctrination into the Panthers will come this week as he works to find a spot with the big club.
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“I have had a lot of chances,” Lundell said. “The puck hasn’t gone into the net yet but I just want to keep going, shoot even more and get it in.
“I feel good so far, playing on the smaller ice. I think this has been good for me. I like to play fast hockey, find my teammates with good passes. It’s getting better all the time. These have been good games for me. It takes some time but I’m trying to make the best of every game and try and help the team win.”
The Panthers officially report to training camp on Wednesday morning and hold their first practice Thursday.
Lundell isn’t even looking that far ahead. He has another practice Monday with the prospect team and another game Tuesday.
Thursday will get here soon enough.
“We have one game left here, so let’s play that first and try to win it,” Lundell said. “But of course, it’s going to be fun later this week. My dream is to play in the NHL, play in the real games. My goal is to make the team.”
The Panthers obviously have high hopes for Lundell.
He was drafted 12th overall in 2020 and, those who watched him with HIFK in Finland’s Liiga saw Florida’s future No. 2 center behind fellow Finn Sasha Barkov.
Lundell may not center Florida’s second line this year — the Panthers went out and traded for Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart while signing Joe Thornton since that draft — but that’s his future here.
His teammates and coaches on this developmental team have been impressed by what they’ve seen.
Florida Panthers find their future No. 2 center in Anton Lundell
General manager Bill Zito and European scouting director Jari Kekalainen were impressed by what they saw last year when Lundell was close to a point-a-game player in the pros but was fantastic at World Juniors and the World Championships.
“He is a great skater who is incredibly talented,” said linemate Logan Hutsko, who scored twice in Sunday’s 8-5 win over Nashville.
“He is easy to play with. When you play on a line with guys like that (Grigori Denisenko), it makes the game easier. They see the game, make plays and are two-way players. It is fun to be out there with them.”
Added Kinnear: “There is no drop to his level of play or his pace. He plays like that all the time. As the game goes on and he gets more minutes, it stays the same. His hockey-sense is on full display. His head is always up, he reads the play very well. His composure has been second-to-none. He has been a real treat to have. He obviously has a bright future.”
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