Having had sufficient time to digest the huge disappointment that was the Swedish team's play in the World Juniors, one of the few things that really stands out in a positive way is Anton Lander.
The Oiler prospect truly displayed not only the most consistent play, but first and foremost showed incredible leadership skills.
He immediately was named an assistant captain, and on the Swedish players blogs....... wait let me address this first. Some of the Swedish players actually had blogs going throughout the tournament?! Seriously they were blogging about Swedish soaps and the quality of the internet speeds at the hotels. Maybe they should've spent that time working on how to actually play against forechecking teams or learning how to block shots, but i digress.
Anyway, right from the first day they were raving about Lander's leadership skills, calling him a natural leader and speaking of how most of the players were gravitating towards him. I know I touched upon this in my look at him earlier last month and he is an assistant captain for Timrå. But in the World Juniors he truly showed his true colors.
Early in the group stage his play maybe didn't stand out that much, he had some points and played really solid, BUT it was in a game that I hope I never get to watch again (i.e. the semi-final against the USA) he truly shined.
Where most Swedish players went the Swedish route and played their worst when it really mattered, Anton and his line stood up to the Americans, drove the net (we were told that this was something the Swedes had preached throughout, yet never really did), stood up against the forecheck, never hung his head and tried his best to rally his teammates. I believe this game was when Lander truly became a man, and for me cemented his status as a HOCKEYPLAYER. Oh, and he scored both of Sweden's goals, both times from right in front of the net.
He also showed great class and attitude after the game in an interview with hockeysverige.se, here are some quotes from it:
"We have to step up. There still a game about 3rd or 4th place, and we need show some pride for our country and bring home a medal"
"We're allowed to feel bad today. Then we have to show some pride against Switzerland. We need to win that game, there's is no other scenario"
On being a leader on the ice:
"I'm just being myself. I've had a little brother, who I have been taking care of while growing up. Maybe that's where it comes from"
"I try to push my teammates, and show great attitude on the ice"
He was rightfully rewarded and wore the C for the bronze-medal game against the Swiss due to the Marcus Johansson suspension that wasn't. Oh yeah, that was truly entertaining as well. The Swedish coaches were so certain that Johansson was going to be suspended that they didn't dress him even though apparently there was never talk of an actual suspension from the IIHF?!?! Per Marts, the Swedish coach, then tried to cover it up by saying that Johansson had a hand injury and wouldn't have played anyway....
Yes the same coach that pissed off one of our biggest defensive prospects Alexander Urbom (a player that Jaques Lemaire has called one of the best prospects in the Devils system), and chose not to select the Swedish Milan Lucic; Gabriel Landeskog even though he said he wanted players that could stand up to the Canadians. Can you tell I'm not a big fan?
Sorry about that, back to Lander. After seeing his play and the way he handled himself in the WJC I'm even more sure thet he can become an NHLer and a pretty decent one. If you want leadership, hardwork, character and a never say die attitude look no further than Anton Lander, the future checking line center for The Edmonton Oilers (and captain?).