According to the Aftonblade's Sport section this week, Swedish Elite League team, Timrå, will bid a fond farewell to alternate captain and centreman Anton Lander as well as Vancouver Canucks' prospect defenseman Sebastian Erixon in a game slated to take place on July 30th. This game will feature the two departing Swedes, but also a returning star in Jonathan Hedstrom and current Oiler Magnus Paajarvi.
The report for both players is that they are leaving Sweden to play in the AHL, not the NHL. This is quite interesting as the NHL is definitely seen as the league that most players who leave Europe aspire to play in. That the Swedish media reports that the players will be playing in the AHL rather than the NHL shows an understanding of the system, but also a bit more restraint than some of us closer to Edmonton seem to have when discussing where players may land.
This sendoff for Lander speaks to how the young national team captain is viewed by his fans and by Timrå as a leader and an important asset. "He's a leader amongst men," was the quote from Kevin Lowe on Lander at this year's Oilers' development camp, and that was not the first time that Oilers' fans have heard as much. Nearly every time you hear or read a report on Lander "He's a leader" will be printed somewhere.
For the 2011 World Juniors in Buffalo, Lander wore the "C" for his country and likely felt the disappointment of his entire country despite winning bronze and despite the fact that Lander's play was one of the highlights to many observers. "I try to push my teammates, and show great attitude on the ice" says Lander of his play. This is exactly what a developing team will need.
While attending the Oilers development camp, I did make an effort to try to learn something new about each player. That is not exactly an easy undertaking. With Lander, it was an opportunity to see his interaction and leadership with the players first hand. Between drills, I was able to see Lander demonstrating hand positioning and stick handling to other Oilers' prospects. The other prospects responded to Lander and according to some reports would naturally gravitate to the Swede.
In his final season with Timrå, Lander netted 10 goals and 14 assists in 49 games played. In the world juniors, Lander had 1 goal and 3 assists through 6 games.
A great complement to Landers' leadership is his sense of humour: "I have to show that I'm from Sweden and that I don't take [crap]... I'm kidding," Lander told the Oilers crew. It seems that the Oilers may have found that missing funny bone, not truly seen since the departures of Matt Greene, Marty Reasoner, and most recently, Dustin Penner.