The Colorado Avalanche are a tough team to figure out. They’ve been assembling a solid group of young, talented players but just can’t seem to get themselves into the Stanley Cup playoffs. The latest installment from the book of “he’s got a bright NHL future” is Gabriel Landeskog.
The 2nd overall pick in last year’s draft, Landeskog is tied with Daniel Sedin and Victor Hedman for the honor of being the 2nd highest Swede to be drafted. The great Mats Sundin went first overall. He was on the Swedish team that played here in the World Junior Championship but an ankle sprain limited him to just 1 game. Landeskog made the jump from Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League to the NHL at the age of 18.
He has certainly been as advertised and should be in the running for the Calder Trophy. Landeskog is among the top 5 for rookies in goals, assists, points, plus-minus, takeaways, hits, game winning goals, power play goals and power play points. He’s already set an Avs franchise record for most shots on goal in a season by a rookie and is drawing comparisons to fellow Swede and former Avalanche star Peter Forsberg.
Said by many to be “mature beyond his years”, Landeskog has also shown signs of leadership that were on display during his stellar junior career. He was the first European captain in the history of the Kitchener Rangers and folks up there said he reminded them of former Kitchener star Mike Richards.
Landeskog went the junior route despite playing in the Swedish Elite League because he felt it would better prepare him for the transition to the NHL. During his first year in Kitchener, he wanted to speed up the process of getting acclimated to North American culture and to learn English as soon as possible so he watched endless episodes of the TV show “Friends.”
Landeskog has been used in many roles by Colorado, getting time on the power play, the penalty kill and being put out on the ice to protect 1 goal leads in the final minute. He was named the NHL’s top rookie for the month of February when he scored 7 goals and added 6 assists.