At best, the World Junior Championship in Buffalo could be characterized as bittersweet for Edmonton fans. As supporters of Team Canada, there was naturally the disappointment of the third-period collapse against the Russians, where the opposition scored five goals in the final stanza to snatch away gold.
On top of that, there was the fact Oilers draft pick Olivier Roy lost the No. 1 goaltending job on Team Canada to Mark Visentin (a Phoenix Coyotes pick) after getting shelled by Sweden in the round-robin.
But not all was lost. Anton Lander once again had a strong tourney for Sweden, winning faceoffs, providing leadership while wearing the captain’s ‘C’ on his sweater and contributing four points in six games. True, when Lander hit the post on a failed shootout attempt against the Russians, it sent Sweden to the bronze medal game instead of the final, but worse things have happened in a young career.
In terms of his future in Edmonton, Lander is looking forward to it. The young Swede is currently playing for Timra in the Swedish Elite League, where he will likely spend at least another season. But one of his former teammates on the squad is Magnus Paajarvi, the esteemed Oilers rookie. Lander told me Paajarvi spoke very highly of playing in Edmonton, both as an organization and as a city.
While fans may need to be patient, Lander is certainly a prospect worth waiting for.
In terms of other Edmonton prospects in the tourney, Toni Rajala was very quiet for the Finnish squad, which had a great round-robin before a disappointing medal round (particularly in a fifth-place game loss to Switzerland). Martin Marincin missed most of the tourney for Slovakia due to a suspension on a nasty and stupid elbow against the Americans in the preliminary round.
Curtis Hamilton looked good for Canada, however. A strapping 6-foot-2, 209-pound power forward, Hamilton went into the dirty areas and displayed some deft hands for the Canucks. Overall, he sniped four goals in seven games for the Canadians.
So while this tournament didn’t have Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Magnus Paajarvi making big noise for the Oilers franchise, there was definitely some top-end talent that you should expect to see in the copper and blue in the not-too-distant future.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.