It's almost a year to the day since Gabriel Landeskog was taken by the Colorado Avalanche with the second pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, and even the 19 year-old left winger can't believe how fast time has gone by.
Then again, it's been a very eventful year for the kid from Stockholm. After arriving in Denver from the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, Landeskog proceeded to lead the Avs in goals, shots, and plus-minus before playing at the World Championship in his hometown and eventually arriving in Las Vegas this week to contend for the Calder Trophy as the League's top rookie.
"It's crazy. Time really does fly. It feels like yesterday I was sitting there [at the Draft]," Landeskog told NHL.com while in New York demonstrating SimpliFlow's new Flow Competitive Sports workout app. "I've been having a lot of fun with it, but I'm enjoying it with my family and friends."
Landeskog got off to a solid start in Colorado, registering four goals and six points in his first nine NHL games. But it was after the NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa, where Landeskog was selected as a rookie to participate in the weekend's skills competition, that he suddenly found his stride.
A week after All-Star weekend concluded, Landeskog started a run in which he scored seven goals in nine games and assumed a role as one of his team's leaders. When the season was done, he had played in all 82 games and jumped to the head of the Calder class.
"Coming back from the All-Star break and getting a bit of a break from the tough schedule was good for me," Landeskog said. "Confidence is a huge part of the game, and coming back I felt like my production started coming. The last couple of months [of the season] were better than the first couple of months."
But Landeskog's remarkable first year as a pro didn't end with the conclusion of his rookie campaign. Just weeks after the Avs season ended, Landeskog accepted an invitation to play for the Swedish national team at the World Championship, which was staged this past spring in Stockholm and Helsinki. If the honor of playing in the comfort of his hometown wasn't enough, Landeskog was given the alternate captain's "A" to wear while shining for his national team.
"He was great for us. He's a two-way player that works so hard," said Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman, who played alongside Landeskog at the World Championship and was also in New York for the SimpliFlow demonstration. "He's a tremendous player and Colorado is fortunate to have him on their team. I wouldn't be surprised if he was their captain in the next couple of years. He's that good and he's the type of person that you want to put a 'C' on."
In a year that has brought the young winger numerous honors, there may be no better way to finish it than with the highest honor an NHL rookie can receive. If nothing else, a Calder win would give him some bragging rights over Carolina Hurricanes center Jeff Skinner, Landeskog's roommate with Kitchener and last year's rookie of the year.
"It would be a lot of fun to win it, especially after Jeff won it last year. We're such good friends and roomed together in Kitchener," said Landeskog, who couldn't help but take a shot at his friend's suit from last year's Awards. "Didn't he get Teen Magazine or something to help him with his suit? Hopefully I'll be able to do it by myself."
Regardless of whether or not he earns the Calder in Vegas this week, expectations will be high for Landeskog entering season number two. It's a challenge he's looking forward to.
"I learned so much and had great teammates that supported me all along and made the transition pretty easy," Landeskog said. "I feel like I'm a better player today than I was at the start of the season, and that's the important thing."
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