Anton Lander seems to suffer from some kind of disorder that forces him to be huge in big games. He's had a tough time after the World Junior Championships but scores big goals in the last two games of regular season. I've followed him for many years now and have seen this time after time, both with the junior national team and in Timra. It's no coincidence that Lander scored the game-winning goal in this game, that's for sure!When we played 4 on 5 late in the game with the one goal lead we got a 50/50 chance to get a 2 on 2 break for a shorthanded goal but the 18 year old who newly-scored the goal of his life was cool enough to go and get a line change that helped us live through that crucial short-handed situation and win the game.
As Ben would say, on a scale from one to ten Eberles, Anton Lander is a perfect ten. Lander's late season heroics dragged Timrå into the Swedish Elite League playoffs and his third period in the final game against Lulea will be the stuff of legend for years to come. On the back of Timrå's huge win and dramatic qualification for the playoffs, Anton was gracious enough to agree (in English) to an interview with a guy that asked for the interview using Google translate. To eliminate any language barrier and to bring a level of personality to an interview that a cell phone conversation cannot provide, our good friend Jimmy Hamrin, the intrepid Swedish blogger that follows Timrå, rain or shine, agreed to meet with Anton in Timrå to conduct the interview for The Copper & Blue. I cannot thank Jimmy enough for translating my questions into Swedish and translating Anton's answers back into English - C&B is forever indebted to Jimmy for his work. After the jump is our conversation, through Jimmy, with Anton Lander.
C&B: The World Junior Championships were a disappointment for Sweden...
Anton Lander: I'll have to agree. We had a great team and were pretty cocky before the tournament so a bronze is definitely a failure. But it's also mixed feelings since a medal is always a medal.
C&B: ...but you personally had an excellent tournament
Lander: I'm satisfied. Our line (with Silfverberg and Rodin) had a defensive role and were told to check hard and create powerplay for the top lines. With that in mind I have to say that we did a good tournament.
C&B: You were revealed as the true leader of the team and this season, you've been an assistant captain for Timra. Does that sort of leadership come naturally to you, or do you work on that aspect of your game and personality?
Lander: Naturally I guess. It's not something I've strived for. Maybe it's because I have a younger brother who I've been taking care of this comes natural for me. I'm comfortable in that role too.
C&B: Did you know Kent Nilsson prior to being drafted by the Oilers?
Lander: No, I didn't know him personally but I knew who he was as a player of course.
C&B: Did he give you any hints that the Oilers might have been interested in you?
Lander: Well, Magnus (Pääjärvi) hinted that they would probably take me in the second round if I was still available.
C&B: Are you a vocal teammate, or do you tend to lead by example?
Lander: I'm not the kind of guy who yells in the locker room. I want to lead with spirit on the ice instead.
C&B: Which player(s) do you look up to?
Lander: Without a doubt, Henrik Zetterberg! I love his way of playing and I've looked at him a lot. I want to be the type of player he is. He's great at both ends of the ice and he get's to play in every situation for his team.
C&B: You're almost always mentioned in the same breath as Paajarvi in the Edmonton media, what sort of relationship do you have with him?
Lander: We've played a lot together in Timra and with the junior national teams so we know each other well. We're good friends and can talk about almost everything. But we don't spend that much time together off the ice when we're home.
C&B: Are you willing to come to North America and play in Oklahoma City in the AHL, or are you intent on moving from the SEL to the NHL?
Lander: That's a tough question. It depends what Edmonton wants to do. Most importantly I want to feel ready before I'll go, IF I'll go. People in North America sometimes seems to take for granted that you want to go at all costs.
C&B: Do you have any concerns in transitioning to the North American game?
Lander: I like the smaller rinks and I would want to se them change the rinks in Europe to the North American size. The higher tempo and the more intensive game is more fun to play. I also think that the WJC is proof of me handling that kind of hockey.
C&B: How much weight would Paajarvi's decision have in influencing your decision on where to play?
Lander: We're two different persons and we have different type of playing. I'll go when I'm ready and he should go when he's ready.
C&B: Which part of your game needs the most work and how are you improving?
Lander: The skating is my biggest weakness and something I really need to improve and you can improve that area in so many ways. Strength, elasticity, endurance, technique, quickness etc etc. Here in Sweden we've more team-coordinated training than in North America so I don't have like a individual program or something to follow during the season.
C&B: Have the Oilers’ organization been in contact with you and do they provide any insight on how they feel about your progress?
Lander: I met Tambellini during the WJC and he said that they were happy with my progress so far. But during the season I haven't had any direct contact with them. My focus is with Timra.
C&B: Are you able to follow the Oilers?
Lander: They don't show that many Oiler-games on Swedish TV since there's no big Swedish stars on the team and the time-differential is huge. But I follow scores and highlights on nhl.com.
C&B: Are you strong in the faceoff circle?
Lander: I'm okay. I'm learning more and more. It's a huge difference to faceoff in the SEL against grown men than at how it was at the WJC. I believe that the strength is very important.
C&B: Why do you wear #51?
Lander: I grew up on the same street as a guy named Mikael Nyberg who's five years older than me. He wore that number in the junior team in Timra. He was the biggest star on our street. When I made the U18-team in Timra the number was a available so I took it.
C&B: Do you have a nickname?
Lander: Lampan (The lamp) or Landy.
C&B: What's your opinion on your season, so far?
Lander: I started okay. I got a lot of confidence from the coaches. The WJC was big for me but also a total letdown and I slumped after that tournament. But the Olympic break was good for me and I have been getting better and better after that. Totally maybe my offensive game haven't been as I've hoped and I don't think it's acceptable to have a minus in the plus-minus column.
For more from Anton Lander on his time with Timrå, please visit Jimmy's blog.
Some additional bits from Jimmy's interview:
Jimmy: First, I must just say that there is much talk of Anton's leadership skills and maturity for his age. His juniors teammates called him "our Joe Sakic" for example.
Jimmy: He sat down and shook my hand and asked what I had and went and bought it. He showed a genuine appreciation towards me and acted genuinely interested in me as a person. It was almost like it was his pleasure to meet me and not vice versa. It is difficult to accept but it feels like he has the ability to make others feel important around him.
Jimmy: Are you a bad loser?
Lander: Yes, in everything. Even when I play video games with my brother or whatever. I must win!
And, as Jimmy did, I leave you with Anton's favorite song: