A very bright future

TERRY JONES, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 1:44 PM ET

SASKATOON -- If they could only stay like this.

It's so refreshing to be here dealing with unaffected future Edmonton Oilers who didn't spend New Year's Eve involved in a dispute over a restaurant bill of about $17,000, like the current Oilers did.

This is the same Edmonton team that made their fans livid and made headlines in New York by blowing $20,000 on a rookie dinner in 2004.

Maybe one day, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and Anton Lander will be involved in one of these fan-insulting embarrassments in which players thumb their nose at the people who pay their $7 million salaries by purchasing tickets that seldom equal the team's entertainment value.

But right now, Eberle, Paajarvi-Svensson and Lander are still kids, unaffected by the big contracts. They're all playing medal-round games at the world junior championship, and they're only interested in talking about what's going to happen today and Tuesday.

Like Paajarvi-Svensson, the Oilers' first-round pick in the draft last year.

"I am only looking to bringing the gold back home," said the player who is second only to Oilers' 2008 first-round draft pick Eberle in tournament scoring.

"Sweden has only won the gold once, back in 1981 and our assistant coach, Peter Sundstrom was on that team and reminds us about that a lot."

But what about the big money, the big contract with the Oilers to come to the NHL next year?

"I can't really think about next year. My head is right here right now. Thinking about next year right now is not good for my head," said the charismatic kid.

"This year, we think we can do it. If we face Canada for the gold medal again, I think we learned a lot from playing them last year. We have good confidence and now we think we can win in Canada against Canada.

"We definitely have the skill. We score lots of goals.

"To win the world junior in Canada against Canada would mean so much. I really want that gold. The other guys want it, too. We're ready. We're hungry now."

Hope is the No. 1 thing to sell in sport, and there's as much hope here for the future Edmonton Oilers as there is for the NHL team that went into last night's game in San Jose in 29th place in the NHL's overall standings.

Eberle you know about. As was the case last year, the Oilers No. 1 pick in the 2008 draft is having an outstanding tournament and will be on display again today as Canada plays Switzerland in the semifinal.

But for Edmonton fans, perhaps just as interesting a prospect for the future is Paajarvi-Svensson, who will be showcased in the second semifinal to follow on TSN, with many people expecting a Canada-Sweden gold medal game to follow on Tuesday.

Picking 10th, the Oilers made Paajarvi-Svensson their first-round draft pick last year. With their second-round pick, they took Lander. Both wingers play on the Swedish Elite League team Timra.

Only Eberle had more points than the nine (three of them goals) Paajarvi-Svensson produced in the round-robin games of the tournament. Lander, playing on a checking line, potted twogoals and a pair of assists.

Last year, Paajarvi-Svensson had nine goals and 17 points playing with the big boys in the Elite League. This year he has 10 goals and 20 points after 31 games.

Eberle is a lock to be playing in Edmonton next year. But Paajarvi-Svensson isn't tipping his hand.

His coach thinks he should stay in Sweden one more year.

"He's still a young guy. He's still learning a lot," said Pat Marts.

"This year his play is up a lot in the Swedish Elite League. He's more in front of the net this year. Last year he was more behind the net. He's learned a lot this year, but he still has more to learn. It's better to stay another year and play on the national team. But that's his decision."

"Maybe the coach is right," Paajarvi-Svensson said of Marts statement after the Swedes had moved up from Group B here and held a practice session yesterday.

"Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know. I will decide after my contract is up and that's at the end of this season," he said of his club team.

"I'm just not thinking about it."

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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