-- It appears Kitchener Rangers captain Gabriel Landeskog
, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated North American draft prospect, is close to ready to make his return to the lineup.
Not only is that music to the ears of Kitchener coach/GM Steve Spott
, but to Landeskog. After all, he has yet to play a single game since he earned the No. 1 spot in Central Scouting's mid-term ranking of North American skaters, a report released Jan. 10.
A high ankle sprain forced the 6-foot, 207-pound left wing to miss all but one game for Team Sweden in the 2011 World Junior Championship and sidelined him for the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. Landeskog did watch Wednesday's game at Air Canada Centre alongside his coach.
"There was no ligament damage, which was great news for us, so if I had to put a timeline on it, I'd say anywhere from 5-10 days right now, according to our medical people," Spott told NHL.com. "He's getting closer and practicing with the hockey club. But, in saying that, we want to make sure when he does return that he's as darn close to 100 percent as he can be."
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.
"Despite being the mature young man that he is, he's still an 18-year-old kid," Spott said. "We brought him down (to Toronto), had a nice dinner, took him down to the dressing rooms before the game to meet the coaches from both teams and meet some of the teammates he would have played with. It would have been great for him to play for Team Sweden and, obviously, be a part of the Top Prospects Game, but he knows what's on the line for himself this year and in the future. He recognizes the health of his body probably should take precedence."
A look at the NHL standings shows the Devils with the best chance of landing the No. 1 pick at the 2011 Entry Draft, and Spott feels Landeskog would be a perfect fit in New Jersey.
"Knowing some of the management, if it is a New Jersey pick, I know (Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations and Director of Scouting) Dave Conte and I think Gabriel is the type of player who would fit into (GM) Lou Lamoriello's system because it's all about team," Spott said. "It's all about cohesiveness with the group, and knowing David Clarkson
, one of our Kitchener alumni, who plays in New Jersey, I think Gabriel would be a great fit wearing the Devils sweater because he'd fit the philosophy of the organization."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale