SUN Hockey Pool

Lander makes Oil grade

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:17 AM ET

EDMONTON - He shouldn’t be buying a house just yet, but as of right now he doesn’t need a plane ticket, either.

And that’s good enough for Anton Lander.

With the Oilers down to 27 players, six of them injured and doubtful for Oct. 9, the 20-year-old Swede is still here, and can almost see the bright lights of opening night.

“I’ll sleep much better this night than the night before, that’s for sure,” said Lander, who learned Monday morning that he’ll start the season in Edmonton, not Oklahoma “I was a little nervous, there are a lot of good guys in the organization and it was hard competition.”

But Lander, right from the start of prospects camp in Penticton, kept impressing the coaches with his skills, commitment and head for the game. It was his ascent up the organizational depth chart that enabled Edmonton to pull the trigger on Gilbert Brule.

The real test doesn’t come until Sam Gagner is healthy and the Oilers have five centres — “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” said head coach Tom Renney — but so far so good for the second-round pick from 2009.

“When I was working out in the summer that was my goal, to make the team,” said Magnus Paajarvi’s former teammate in the Swedish Elite League. “You have to believe in yourself and try to push yourself. If you don’t do that, you miss a lot.”

Lander is part of a secondary wave that includes Teemu Hartikainen (who’s going to Oklahoma so he can play top six minutes before coming back to the NHL) and Jeff Petry. They’re not first-rounders like Hall, Eberle or Nugent-Hopkins, but could make big impacts when the Oilers are ready to be an elite team again.

“Anton is a very smart player who can manage all aspects of the game, with or without the puck,” said Renney. “He’s a big, strong two-way centre who can navigate the ice like anybody on our team can.”

Whether he’d be best served by staying here or playing huge minutes in the AHL like Hartikainen will be determined in the next few weeks, but the fact he’s this ready this early is a great sign.

“I’m very excited, I’ve been excited since the first day,” said Lander, adding he felt stronger as camp wore on. “Like everything else in life, if you do something one more time, the second time you feel more comfortable and you do it better.

“But I still have a long way to go, it’s time for hard work now.”

FROM OFF THE RADAR: Nobody had Lennart Petrell picked to make the team, even temporarily, when the training camp roster came out, but size and grit and speed and smarts are hard for any coach to ignore.

“The fact that Lennart is as competitive as he is and not afraid to use his body and sacrifice himself to get the job done is important for our team,” said Renney. “We need that.”

The 27-year-old Finn can finally catch his breath.

“I was nervous yesterday, there were a lot of things going on. I was waiting to hear something (travel arrangements to Oklahoma) from (Team Services Manager) Pat Garland and I never did. I’m excited and a little relieved.”

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

TWITTER.com/SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


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