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Landeskog excited for future but Avalanche 'haven't done anything yet'

Rantanen's growth, Makar's arrival, selections in 2019 Draft could keep Colorado consistent contender

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

TORONTO -- Gabriel Landeskog recognizes the Colorado Avalanche are in a great position to be competitive for the long term. But he knows that it still is up to him and his teammates to take advantage of their opportunity.

"It's a super exciting time to be a Colorado Avalanche and an Avalanche fan as well," Landeskog said at the NHLPA Golf Classic at Glen Abbey Golf Club on Thursday. "We're enjoying the position we're in but at the same time we haven't done anything yet so it's about taking the next step and making sure we're all growing and doing our part to get better in the summer time, so when the season starts we can all do our jobs."

The Avalanche made the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season, the first time they had done that since reaching the postseason 11 straight times from 1995-2006, and defeated the Calgary Flames in the Western Conference First Round for their first series victory since defeating the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference Quarterfinals in 2008.

Colorado lost to the San Jose Sharks in seven games in the Western Conference Second Round but this season still felt like a success.

Defenseman Cale Makar, the No. 4 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, made his debut in Game 3 against the Flames and had six points (one goal, five assists) in 10 games. Defenseman Conor Timmins, who was selected in the second round (No. 32) in the 2017 Draft, missed the season with concussion-like symptoms but is expected to compete for an NHL roster spot next season. Selecting defenseman Bowen Byram (No. 4) and forward Alex Newhook (No. 16) in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft has further added to Colorado's strong group of young prospects.

Video: Rewinding the impressive season for Colorado

"Not only are we a young team and like to think we're fun to watch as well, but we've got Cale Makar, who knows how good he can be," Landeskog said. "Conor Timmins, Byram, Newhook, guys we just drafted, and then we've got (Tyson) Jost, (J.T.) Compher, (Alexander) Kerfoot, (Mikko) Rantanen, (Nathan) MacKinnon, (Tyson) Barrie. Philipp Grubauer proved to be a really good goalie down the stretch and helped propel us into the playoffs. We've got a great young core."

Rantanen is one of the leaders of that young core, with 87 points (31 goals, 56 assists) in 74 games this season and 84 points (29 goals, 55 assists) last season. He can become a restricted free agent July 1.

Landeskog said he does not think Rantanen gets enough credit for how good a player he is.

"He doesn't but I think he's OK with that," Landeskog said. "I think he's OK with kind of playing under the radar. He's a really calm guy. Sometimes he gets rather loud but he's a real fun guy to be around and has put himself, in my opinion, among the group of top guys in the NHL at what he does. He's big and strong and skilled and can beat guys 1-on-1, but I think he's OK with being an underdog and fly under the radar."

Landeskog said Rantanen deserves whatever contract he ends up signing.

"He's earned everything he's gotten and I'm sure they are going to come to a good conclusion and settle on something really good for both parties," Landeskog said. "Ultimately Mikko is a really down to earth guy and a guy who really cares about his teammates and wants to be a good hockey player. I don't really get involved too much in what other guys are doing with their contracts. I care about my teammates, I want them to be happy and we're all working towards the same goal, of winning the Stanley Cup."

Having missed the playoffs in five of his first six NHL seasons, Landeskog understands what tough times are like. Now with the Avalanche looking as though they are ready to contend, the 26-year-old forward, who has been Avalanche captain since the 2012-13 season, is ready to help lead the team to the next level.

"(My career) been up and down, with the low being the 2016-17 season (when Colorado was last in the NHL with 48 points)," Landeskog said. "But it really makes you appreciate all the good times afterwards. You go through something like that and then the excitement of making the playoffs the next year and then last year we felt like we could have really done some damage. As a journey, we know we know it's going to be hard at times and then sometimes it will come easier. But we'll never be satisfied until we win that last game of the year."

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