Anton Lander is the great unknown. Drafted in the wake of his SEL teammate Magnus Pääjärvi, he's taken the slower and more methodical development route on his way to the NHL:
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.
He returns to Timrå IK this season as a nineteen-year-old with a season as an assistant captain under his belt. This year, however, Pääjärvi is no longer there to overshadow him, and given his leadership role on the club, he's going to be a major part of Timrå's hopes for success this season.
In our interview with John Fontana from Raw Charge, we noted about Lander:
His teammates will run through a brick wall for him, he's wearing an 'A' at eighteen, and he's an excellent defensive player. He's on his own timeline to come to North America, but Oiler fans remain patient, knowing that they are going to get an extremely mature young man when he decides to make the jump.
If Lander's progress and personality remind you of a Swede already plying his trade in the NHL, it's not by accident. Henrik Zetterberg, a Timrå IK alumnus, is Anton Lander's childhood idol. I say childhood idol because given what we know about Lander, it's likely that he doesn't let something as silly as hockey guide the rest of his life or his development as a man. In a recent interview with Sundsvalls Tidning, Lander talked to Fredrik Ytterström about training with Zetterberg when Henrik returned home for a few workouts. Commenter ehuisman was able to give The Copper & Blue a translation. Ytterström asked Lander what's necessary to reach the levels that Zetterberg has reached. Lander answered:
It is true that you can have self-discipline. It shouldn't be a "must", but something you want to do, that you want to do extra training and focus on small details. At the same time I think it is extremely important to jump at the chance when you get it.
Lander also spoke about his time in Edmonton at the Prospects Camp:
It was really fun and inspiring. They were so professional and took good care of me. I got my first taste and saw what kind of opportunities there are if one works hard.
Timrå's exhibition schedule is underway and Lander is back in his old spot on the third line. Some might find it curious that Lander is again centering the third line*, but as Pääjärvi told us during his interview:
We didn´t match lines like you often do in North America. Our line was probably our most offensive, but every line needs to check also.
Lander is learning all facets of the game, and he continues to do so in one of the best leagues in the world, and against grown men. Given his maturity level and introspection about his readiness to play the NHL game, it wouldn't surprise me if Lander followed Zetterberg's footsteps to North America and jumped straight to the NHL. When he's ready.
*After writing this, the next game recap from the Sundsvalls Tidning showed Lander centering the second line.
Lander came in at #11 in our Top 25 under 25. His profile, written by Scott Reynolds, is here.
Many thanks to regular commenter ehuisman for his work in translating the article from Sundsvalls Tidning.