Kitchener Rangers captain Gabriel Landeskog, the No. 1-rated North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting's mid-term report on Jan. 10, is cautiously optimistic he'll return to the lineup on Friday in an Ontario Hockey League matchup against the Plymouth Whalers.
"I really look forward to playing in front of the home crowd again," Landeskog told NHL.com. "Just that feeling to step out onto the ice is something that I really look forward to right now. So I'm going to have a good practice tomorrow and continue to do my rehab and hopefully I'll feel good to go on Friday."
A high ankle sprain forced Landeskog to miss all but one game for Team Sweden in the World Junior Championship and required him to relinquish his roster spot in the Top Prospects Game -- to Shane Prince of the Ottawa 67's. Landeskog has 25 goals, 45 points and a plus-24 rating in 32 OHL games. Despite not playing since Dec. 18, he still leads his team in goals and is third in points.
"The ankle is getting better, the rehab is progressing pretty well right now," he said. "I've been doing exercises to strengthen up the muscles and also doing things to get the balance and the power into it as well."
Central Scouting rated Landeskog the No. 1 skater in the Ontario Hockey League in its preliminary rankings release in November. Landeskog is the second European-born and -trained player to captain an OHL team -- New York Islanders prospect Tomas Marcinko, a native of Slovakia, captained the Barrie Colts in 2007-08.
Landeskog admitted being surprised with the No. 1 ranking last month.
"I was pretty surprised, to be honest," he said. "I wasn't expecting it at all but, to me, it was just something that showed me that I was doing good things on the ice. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. At the same time, it's just a list and you want on be on the top of the rankings at the end of June and not in January, so you have to just stay on track and keep doing what your doing."