2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. 2 Gabriel Landeskog
May 3, 2011 Leave a comment
For a player who, just two years ago, was hopping back and forth in Sweden’s junior and elite hockey leagues, Gabriel Landeskog has since made quite a name for himself. But just two seasons into his major junior career, the 6-foot, 207-pound left wing might just be on his way to being a top-three pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Although his statistics don’t stand out like other top-ranked prospects (Landeskog has scored 112 points in 114 career Ontario League games with the Kitchener Rangers), it is his all-around play, both with and without the puck, that make scouts lick their chops at the prospect of drafting the Stockholm, Sweden native. “Not only was Landeskog one of the top scorers in the Ontario League through early December,” wrote The Hockey News columnist Ryan Kennedy, “But he was also consistently throwing stiff hits, blocking shots and even fighting when he felt a teammate had been wronged.”
“I think it all started when we were allowed to hit (in Sweden) at age 13,” Landeskog told NHL.com. “My dad used to play, and he was a big, physical defenseman and he gave me advice. He said, ‘It’s not bad to play physical, and it’s an asset to your game.’ I started young and came along with it and have been using (that physical approach) to my advantage now.”
In addition to his physical play as a dominant power forward, Landeskog is also one of the best defensive players in Major Junior hockey. He barely made it out of the 2009-10 season with an even plus/minus rating. But in the 2010-11 season, he ended with a plus-27 rating – good for second on his team. And after last season’s collapse in the playoffs (the Rangers blew a 3-0 series lead to the eventual Memorial Cup-champion Windsor Spitfires), the Rangers need all the defense they can get.
Scouts also appreciate Landeskog’s leadership abilities, which garnered him the “C” this season. “As captain, sometimes guys expect you to step up,” he said. “Obviously if you see a guy isn’t ready, you have to go up to him and make sure he is. Sometimes on the bench you have to call out a guy too, if he’s not doing his job right. Yeah, we’re all friends, but when we’re at the rink and playing games we have to take that aside and must do what’s best for the team. I think sometimes you have to tell a guy what he’s doing right or what he’s doing wrong. You might have to say something you don’t want to, but it’s all for the team.”
One of the best players in the upcoming draft, Landeskog has the size, strength, speed, hands, and awareness that every NHL team wants to see in a young, budding star. Scouts have labeled him as NHL-ready and are expecting him to suit up for the 2011-12 NHL season. And what exactly should we expect to see in him?
“I try and pattern my game like Jarome Iginla (of Calgary) and Mike Richards (of Philadelphia),” Landeskog told NHL.com. “They’re kind of my role models. I look a lot like how they play, and I want to be a leader like they are for their teams.”
If he can become a hybrid of two of the best power forwards of this era, expect Landeskog to be one of the most successful players out of this year’s draft.
Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.