Good things come to those who wait.
For 20-year-old Anton Lander
, the reward came at 9pm in Sweden when another step toward his NHL dream was taken; a three-year entry-level contract was signed and his path to the Edmonton Oilers organization had clear direction heading into the summer.
"It was an amazing time," Lander said. "The [June 1st] deadline was coming up, but I'm really proud to be one of the players in the Edmonton Oilers organization. It's a really good club and they take good care of their guys."
Putting pen to paper was a relatively small step in Lander's extensive journey to the NHL. We last caught up with the dynamic, two-way pivot in late December. At the time, he was midway through his fourth season with Timra IK and was preparing for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo, New York.
When the dust settled and his 2010-11 campaign came to a close, Lander's focus for the upcoming season had traveled overseas following another highly successful season in Sweden. In 49 regular season games, he amassed 11 goals and 26 points.
"I'm going to go 100 percent [in North America]," Lander said enthusiastically. "If Edmonton wants me to play in Oklahoma, I'm going to do that. I'm going to do everything that I need to do to play in the Oilers organization."
The 6'0", 194-pound centre understands that more work required to make the next level, but devotion to his craft has already helped propel him to new pinnacles of development over the past few seasons.
"[My skating is] better from last season, but I want to work on it more this summer," Lander said. "I'm going to work on that a lot and get some help on it. Then I've got to work on some other things, too, to become a better player with everything else."
According to Lander, when improving in this area, technique is equal to physique.
"I want to get some muscle on my legs to get that quick step on the ice, and try to get faster, faster," he said. "I'm going to do my best and work my ass off."
Working hard is what has ultimately made Lander a unique breed among his prospect peers. Magnus Paajarvi
, who also began his career in Timra, spoke highly of his unmatched work ethic and dedication to succeed.
"His working habits are unbelievable," Paajarvi said. "It's very hard to take out one thing with Anton. He's so good in every aspect; but I have to say his character. He has really helped me grow as a player, and probably more importantly as a person."
It's a bond that has developed over time. Lander is equally as appreciative of the time-tested rapport.
"We played together when were 16 to 18-19 years old," he recalled. "He's one of my best friends outside [of hockey] that I can trust. I talk a lot with him about Edmonton, both on and off the ice. He only says good things. I asked him about everything and it means a lot to me to have him as a friend. He's like a little dad to me."
Lander agrees that second-hand lessons can only go so far. In order to better understand his future workplace, he has stayed up late, braving the eight-hour time difference to watch the Oilers play on television.
"I saw a couple of games on TV, but the time difference is so big. A few games I saw they were really good. Otherwise I watch the NHL.com highlights."
While the native of Sundsvall, Sweden begins to fully embrace the Oilers' future, part of that long-view look may potentially include a Swedish Elite League counterpart. Fellow WJC teammate, defenceman Adam Larsson, could be on Edmonton's radar with the top overall selection in June.
"He's a really good player," Lander said of Larsson. "He's a right ‘D' with good hockey sense. He has a really good shot, too. Not so hard, but he scores on every shot he takes. We were roommates at the World Junior Championship in Saskatoon. He's a really good guy. I can't say any bad things about him."
General Manager Steve Tambellini and Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor will make that decision in a month's time. Lander's focus heading into next season is to continue developing his balanced arsenal in hopes of landing a spot on the Oilers roster come September. Once there, he knows he will contribute.
"The big thing for me is to play a two-way game. Work hard defensively, and when I get that chance the other way, try to find guys to score. I work hard and do my best to help my team get three points."
It's only two points in the NHL, but his work will certainly not be devalued.Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com