Welcome to the new "Player Card" series at FloridaPanthers.com presented by Truist! In these articles, we'll break down both the basics and the beyond when it comes to some of your favorite Panthers players and prospects through their on-ice statistics, off-ice interests, and an informative Q&A session.
In today's card, we'll take a look at Panthers 2020 first-round pick Anton Lundell.
Name: Anton Lundell
Date of Birth: Oct. 3, 2001
Birthplace: Espoo, Finland
Weight: 185 lbs.
It's pretty amazing that Anton Lundell was still on the board for the Florida Panthers' selection.
Scooped up with the 12th overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, the 19-year-old center has drawn comparisons to Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov both for his excellent two-way game and great success competing against grown men in Finland's top league, Liiga, at a very young age.
After posting 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 38 games with HIFK in 2018-19, he improved on all of those numbers last season, finishing with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 44 games.
"It makes you a lot more confident," Panthers general manager Bill Zito said of Lundell's play against grown men. "Obviously when someone at that age is performing that well in that league, and I have a pretty solid familiarity with that league, it makes it a lot easier and gives you a lot more confidence in the player, and it also gives you a lot more context with which to evaluate."
Although he was forced to sit out last year's IIHF U-20 World Junior Championship due to an injury, Lundell has shined during international events in the past. As a 17-year-old at the 2019 World Juniors, he posted one goal and three assists in four contests to help Finland claim gold.
Prior to that, he also took home gold at the 2018 U-18 World Juniors.
"I can create chances for myself and my linemates," Lundell, who is expected to star for Finland at the upcoming 2021 World Juniors. "At the same time, I think I can play a really good two-way game. I want to be a trusted player who the coach can trust on the ice in every situation."
Already in the midst of his third campaign in Liiga, Lundell looks poised to once again reach new career highs in multiple offensive categories. Producing at a point-per-game clip, he's registered 10 points through his first 10 games of the year, including finding the back of the net eight times.
Lundell is also playing major minutes for HIFK, averaging 19:12 of ice time per contest.
"Closer to the season, we'll evaluate and see where he is," Zito said of Lundell's immediate future with Florida. "It's important not to rush it and bring the young players when they're ready. He's [19 years old] playing in a men's league, I know. But you don't want to get too far ahead of yourself, so putting a timetable on him now is a little unfair to him. I don't want to do that. I want to let him play hockey, have fun and continue to develop. When he's ready he'll come."
FloridaPanthers.com: How would you sum up your experience during last month's draft?
Lundell: The draft is something you think about when you're a little boy. It was a big moment for me and my family. It was a very special day to share with them. It was something I'll remember always. I was excited and a bit nervous, too. I had no clue where I was going. It was really fun.
FloridaPanthers.com: After the draft, your team in Finland, HIFK, posted a video of you wearing a heart monitor during the event. Just as your name was about to be announced by the Panthers, your heart rate certainly spiked a lot. How did you feel in that moment?
Lundell: Of course, I was nervous [laughs]. It felt like a really long time when I didn't hear my name. I was just waiting and waiting. Finally, when Florida picked me, it was really exciting. I was really, really happy.
FloridaPanthers.com: I know it was very late in Finland by the time the Panthers picked you. Did you even manage to sleep that night or just power through onto the next day?
Lundell: It was almost 6 a.m. when I got home. Yeah, I went straight to bed. I tried to get some sleep, but it wasn't easy because it was a really big day for me. A lot of new things happened.
FloridaPanthers.com: With the draft being held digitally, I read the NHL sent hats of all 31 teams to the projected first-round picks. So, what did you do with all those leftover caps?
Lundell: Yeah. There's a funny story about that. Me and my agent, we didn't get any hats for the draft. I think it was two or three days later that they came in the mail. I got them all. It was better later than never. Of course, every hat is in a box. I only use the Florida [laughs]. I am going to give away the other hats.
FloridaPanthers.com: I know you also received a jersey from the Panthers in the mail. What was it like to put that on for the first time?
Lundell: It's a really nice jersey. It was a very cool moment.
FloridaPanthers.com: It's been just over a month since the draft. Have you felt any different since then now that you are part of an NHL organization?
Lundell: Of course. You get more motivation. You get more hunger to show everyone that my goal is to play one day in the NHL. I want to be on my best in every game, trying to improve to my game every day. I want to try to be a better player and reach my goal of playing in the NHL.
FloridaPanthers.com: I know all of our fans got pretty fired up when they saw you score four goals in a game just a few weeks after the draft. What went right for you that night?
Lundell: It was a really, really fun game. Sometimes it feels like everything is going the right way for you. Of course, that game was one game where it felt like I can do anything that I want. I had really, really good scoring chances and got four goals. It was something you don't do every day.
FloridaPanthers.com: One of the next big events on the calendar is the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. How excited are you to compete for a gold medal with Finland?
Lundell: I'm really excited. This week we had our camp with our U-20 national team. We weren't able to play any games, but it was a really good and fun week with the team. As we prepare for the World Juniors, it will help a lot. We've got more chemistry and I got to know every guy better.
Hockey Idol Growing Up: Pavel Datsyuk
Favorite Food: Pizza
Favorite TV Show: Prison Break and Friends
Favorite Pump-Up Song: Levels by Avicii
If I Didn't Play Hockey, I'd Play: Soccer