Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Power forward Gabriel Landeskog leadling the way for Avs

By Larry Wigge

He was pushing and pulling. Gabriel Landeskog was getting closer to the goal crease.

Until ...

The puck somehow or another hit him while he was pushing and pulling Nashville stud defenseman Shea Weber with all he had. The goal put the Colorado Avalanche ahead 10:10 of the second period in. Landeskog didn't even know he had put it in in a 4-3 victory.

Carl Soderberg had centered it ... but, indeed, it was Landeskog's goal.

"I was so busy with Shea Weber," he explained. "That's quite a big body to move around in front of the net."

It was Landeskog's 19th goal to go along with his 30 assists. The Stockholm, Sweden, native, has scored 22, 26 and 23 goals in his first three season after being picked second overall in and 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Always looking for tips, the 6-1, 210-pound winger ...

"I have to get better with little things. Stickhandling in traffic, tips and get quicker and stronger," Landeskog said. "It's a big difference, especially playing against men. You really have to battle for your ice. I know there's always room to have to work in the summer getting quicker and stronger."

"It's everything," said former Avs center Peter Statsny, who now plays for in St. Louis. "He seems a complete player, whether it's in the d-zone or the offensive zone, moving the puck, shooting the puck, blocking the puck, being physical ... He does it all."

Said St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock, "He reminds me so much of Peter Forsberg in his ability to maneuver in small spaces. His strength and quickness in small spaces -- I'm very impressed."

"He's got all the tools," said Carolina winger Jeff Skinner, who like Landeskog play junior hockey at Kitchener. "He's strong. He's fast. He can shoot. Beyond that, I think he has the intangibles that are hard to come by. He thinks the game well, and I think guys like to play on his team."

Everyone in his family -- from his father, Tony Landeskog, who works in the insurance business, is a former defenseman in the Swedish Elite League and was accustomed to the life of an athlete playing for Hammerby from 1977 through 1985, to his mother, Cecelia is a chef and cooking instructor -- they all had a hand in his decision. And his brother, Adam, who sent his him countless hours of 'Friends,' to study and learn the North American culture.

"My brother downloaded all 10 seasons for me," Landeskog says.

He's grown up from those days.

Landeskog has always been a big, rugged, but has skill too. Everything you'd want in a power forward. And he had all the intangibles, too, character, skill, smart and makes good decisions with the puck -- and especially strong. One added benefit, he became the captain at Kitchener -- not bad for a Euro-player.

"He's got great character, first and foremost. He exudes it," said Rick Pracey, chief scout for the Colorado Avalanche, used the second pick overall too select Landeskog. "This is a skilled hockey player, a competitive hockey player and strong."

Landeskog and the Avalanche was the perfect fit -- with Gabriel's love of another Colorado favorite Forsberg.

"I remember having Peter Forsberg posters up on my wall when I was a little kid," the 6-1, 207-pound power forward recalling the 2001 Stanley Cup winning team. "He too was a power forward and played with skills and character.

"That's my goal to be in that picture one day ... and to be there with the Colorado Avalanche. I'm very excited."

From posters on his wall to getting a chance at playing in the NHL.

It all began in 2009, when Landeskog moved to Kitchener.

"Moving over to Canada when I was 16 ... no family to fall back on ... got to learn to face challenges by myself ... grow up on my own ... forcing myself to grow up," Landeskog exclaimed.

But ...

"I started paying attention in English class pretty early back home," continued Landeskog.

A strong, powerful, and swift skater, Landeskog is a dynamic playmaking power forward who also has the ability to create scoring chances with his sheer tenacity and grit, and lists Colorado's Jarome Iginla and Washingtn's Mike Richards as his role models for their leadership and on-ice game.

"You just see it," said former backup goalie J.S. Giguere, who has seen a lot in his 14 NHL seasons. "You see it on a guy. You see it the way he carries himself, the way he talks, the way he's not afraid to talk to guys and speak his mind between periods, the way he practices and the way it's in his eyes.

"You see it. You see that he's hungry for the net. You see that he's going to be ..."


"He reminds me a lot of a guy like Peter Forsberg."

When Patrick Roy took over as coach, he had a simple message for Landeskog: Don't stress it, man. Play free. To help the captain, Roy expected leadership from all comers.

"This is a young group. The older guys don't need a C on their jersey," Roy said. "I didn't ever have a C or an A on my jersey. It didn't matter. I knew I could bring some leadership."

Leader. Gabriel Landeskog's strength and quickness in small spaces. Pushing and pulling in those small spaces with a key defender like Shea Weber.

He getting better as we speak.

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