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Magyar Already Has Plenty of Avs Connections

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

Nick Magyar has heard all about Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog.

Not only does the 18-year-old right wing play for the same junior club that Landeskog once captained, the Kitchener Rangers, but he also stays with the same billet family that the Swedish forward did during his time in the Ontario Hockey League from 2009 to 2011.

Landeskog still keeps in touch with his junior billet family and first met Magyar during the Avs' trip to Toronto last season. The two players exchanged contact info after that Oct. 8 game and began forming a friendship.

Nick Magyar

So when Magyar was selected 93rd overall by Colorado this past summer at the NHL Draft, it was no surprise that Landeskog was one of the first people to reach out and welcome him to the Avalanche family.

"I remember it was like 10 minutes after my name got called at the draft, and I was taking pictures downstairs and I got a call from him," Magyar said. "It was good to hear that. All summer we stuck together and talked a lot. He's just a great guy to get experiences from because we are coming from the same area. It was great to get to know him."

Landeskog was just as thrilled to have a familiar face from Kitchener in the organization.

"He is a great kid and a good hockey player," he said. "I was excited to have him here, and I was texting him throughout rookie camp. I'm looking forward to seeing him at the main camp and talking to him more."

Landeskog knows what it's like being a young player and the nerves involved with your first NHL training camp. He did it three years ago and can pass along some of that knowledge to help Magyar get through his first pro camp.

"He's someone I feel comfortable going to and ask any question, no matter how stupid it sounds," Magyar said of Colorado's captain. "I know he's already told me that he is going to take me under his wing, and anything I need he is going to try his best to help."

Magyar's connection to the Avalanche organization doesn't stop with Landeskog, as his hometown is Cleveland, Ohio, the same city where Colorado's American Hockey League affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, currently take the ice.

The growth of hockey in the state of Ohio has changed tremendously in the last 15 years—first with the Columbus Blue Jackets joining the NHL in 2000-01 and then Lake Erie first dropping the puck in 2007-08—and is a reason why Magyar currently plays the game today.

"It's been huge," Magyar said of how the hockey landscape in Ohio effected his development as a player. "I know the fans in Lake Erie for the AHL are great. It's a top-notch facility there. I've talked with a bunch of players, and they think it is one of the better arenas in the league, which is good. Also Columbus coming in and making the playoffs last year, starting to get better, the whole feel and attitude to hockey is definitely growing in Ohio."

Magyar played parts of four seasons of youth hockey with the Cleveland Barons bantam minor, bantam major, under-16 and under-18 teams before moving away to play in the United States Hockey League with Sioux City and the U.S. National Team Development Program in 2012-13.

However now that he's an Avalanche prospect, there is a possibility that he could return to Cleveland to play for the Monsters as he continues his journey to the NHL. That notion of someday playing for the top team in his hometown is something that has crossed his mind.

"All my family still lives in Cleveland so for them to see me play at the top level at home would be awesome," Magyar said. "And also just to be at home. I've always moved away to play the best hockey so to live at home and to play hockey there would be awesome."

While the playing competition is getting better each year in Ohio, Magyar made the tough decision two years ago to move away from Cleveland in order to play the best hockey that will help him get to the NHL.

He was selected by Kitchener in the 12th round of the 2012 OHL Priority Selection and made the jump to the major junior level last year.

Magyar's first season with the Rangers was a success as he shared the club's rookie of the year award with linemate Ryan MacInnis and was the team's leading scorer. He tallied 46 points (20 goals and 26 assists) as a 17-year-old and became the first rookie to lead the club in points since Derek Roy in 1999-00.

The Rangers were a young club in 2013-14 and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years and for just the second time since 2001. But the rebuilding effort did allow the team's rookies to receive expanded roles and have a larger impact in a game.

"It was awesome. It was a young team so we got to play power play, a regular shift right off the bat. Most rookies don't get to do that in the OHL, so it was good to get that experience that I got playing in the first year. I think that helped," he said. "By the end of the year, I don't think there was any adjustment period. You couldn't even tell who was a rookie on our team, and this year is going to be even better."

Now that the young Rangers have a full season of OHL experience, Magyar and the other returning players will be the veterans of the squad and will be looking to get the team back to the postseason.

"I know just at this year's training camp in Kitchener you could tell the guys from last year were becoming veterans and becoming more familiar," Magyar said. "We're a real close-knit group because we didn't lose many players so I think it will be a really great year."

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