| |Anton Lander, center, pays close attention to Oilers coaches during Day 2 of Development Camp at Clareview Arena in Edmonton July 7, 2010. (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club)
Flying halfway across the world can be daunting for any young traveller, but add the pressure of skating alongside bonafide Canadian junior hockey stars and learning drills in a foreign language and you've got a sense of what seven Oilers prospects are feeling this week.
But for forwards Magnus Paajarvi
-Svensson and Anton Lander
, the transition from summer training in Sweden to the high-profile development camp in Edmonton was relatively smooth. Solid English skills help, but a solid friendship helps even more.
With the exception of Connor and Kellen Jones
, whose relationship dates back to the womb, Paajarvi and Lander share the longest history of any prospects at Oilers Development Camp. Since 2007, the duo have suited up for Timra of the Swedish Elite League and gone on to represent the Tre Kronor in the 2008 & 2009 World Under-18 Championship, as well as the 2010 World Juniors.
Now they find themselves in the NHL's most northerly city with a team that drafted them both last summer. They couldn't be happier.
"It's fantastic. It's my first time here in Edmonton and the Edmonton organization is really professional," Lander said after the second day of on-ice sessions. "I'm really proud to be one in the Oilers organization."
As a true development camp rookie, Lander spoke wide-eyed about the 500-plus crowds that have attended the on-ice sessions. Oil Country can be intimidating, but the 19-year-old is easing into the spotlight with help from his fellow Swede.
"He's a good friend to me," Lander said of Paajarvi. "We have played together for three, four years so he means a lot to me, especially when he's good at English, he helps me a lot. I'm not too good so he helps me about everything."
A more polished speaker, Paajarvi said he's "fortunate" to be sharing this experience with Lander but adds that he's eager to get to know the other prospects as well.
"I want to bond with other people too and see what the other guys are like too, so I'm just trying to be open for everything and so far, so good," he explained.
He's a good friend to me. We have played together for three, four years so he means a lot to me. - Anton Lander, talking about Swedish teammate Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson
Paajarvi and Lander were not born bleeding copper and blue but the passion they've seen from fans at Clareview Arena and around the city this week is seeping into their bones.
"You can just taste what it's like to play for the Oilers here, so I'm super excited and hopefully I can make the team," Paajarvi said.
Oilers fans looking for a fresh start are hoping so too. Many expect Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle
and Taylor Hall
to compete for roster spots this fall, a challenge the speedy winger is looking forward to.
"It feels like [the Oilers] want to start over a little bit and hopefully I can be a part of the young guys coming up," he explained. "We've got a couple young guys here with Jordan and Taylor who really want to make the team this year too, so the competition is high and I think that's just positive for the club."
After a very successful 2010 World Championship effort in which he led Sweden with nine points, finished third in tournament scoring, and earned a bronze medal, Paajarvi's confidence is at an all-time high.
"I proved to myself that I could play at the highest level against the best guys in the national team," he recalled. "That was a big thing for me to show myself that I could be there and play good.
"I'm just trying to look at the best players, see what they do, and try to take that to my game. It's not that easy, but if you try, then you can be a better player."
With Lander, Hall, and Eberle at Paajarvi's side this week, fans are now able to see those possibilities in person.