Photo by Steven Christy / Oklahoma City Barons
Anton Lander has an opportunity ahead of him, and he knows it. He’s heading into a third season with the Oilers, wants to prove he can play in the NHL full-time and is coming off a tumultuous year.
First for Lander was consistency. During his first NHL season as a pro he saw 56 games in ‘the show’, right out of training camp. That was followed by a 28-game stint in the AHL with the Oklahoma City Barons, including 14 playoff games.
Lander showed flashes of his potential as a rookie, adding to the fan’s excitement surrounding the former 2nd Round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft. However, he played mostly fourth-line minutes in the NHL, tallying two goals and four assists.
Then came the chaos that was a tumultuous year in 2012-13.
“It’s been a different season,” Lander said. “Personally, I have been unlucky with injuries. First my foot… and then my knee. It has not been fun. It’s never fun to be out.”
The NHL lockout provided Lander with the opportunity to hone his skills in the AHL with the Barons. Prior to his call-up with the Edmonton Oilers on January 31, Anton had scored 10 points (3-7-10) in 39 games with OKC.
Lander’s path to NHL duties seemed to be clear, but on February 6, the young forward took a puck to the foot and left Edmonton’s game against the Dallas Stars.
The prognosis in the coming days was a broken foot, which placed him on injured reserve.
“But, you grow as a person. You learn from it. It’s tougher mentally, to be in good shape and to get back on the ice.”
Once Lander was given medical clearance, he returned to Oklahoma City, then another call up and then another return to OKC, just in time to provide a boost for the playoffs.
Just before the postseason, Lander had a huge boost in confidence. He set a Barons franchise record with a six-point (3-3-6) game against the Rockford Ice Hogs on March 30. Everything was coming together for him, but then came another injury. This time, it was Lander’s knee.
“It’s been, a lot of things to get through…”
The positive to Lander’s up-and-down 2012-13 campaign was that the 22 year-old from Sweden learned what it takes to be part of a winning culture. Lander’s favourite part of this season was playing in OKC’s long Calder Cup run.
“(Playoffs are) the best time of the year,” said Lander. “You want to play hockey at this time.”
“Late in the playoffs you play those big games. That’s what you dream about when you’re young. You want to play those big games because we all want to win. That’s why we play.”
It’s an experience that Lander hopes to bring to the Oilers when they break camp for the upcoming season.
“It was a huge experience. You learn from it, and you put in your bag and have it with you the next year, or the year after that and it’s a great experience.”
“It’s definitely going to be a different game. It’s a different level.”
Let’s flash forward to this season. Lander has been working to get faster and stronger, to return strength to his injured knee and be ready to steal a spot on the Oilers roster. A goal of his.
“That’s what I’ve got to work on; get faster, get stronger. Camp is coming. You can have a goal about it, to make the team. But right now, I’ve just got to focus on getting better in my knee.”
Lander hopes to be ready to show he can contribute full-time in the NHL and knows that his opportunity is quickly approaching.
“When the camp comes, you have to show your game out there.”