|Avs forward Gabriel Landeskog leads all NHL rookies with 51 shots on goal this season. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings) |
It’s been a whirl wind year for Gabriel Landeskog, the 18-year-old Stockholm native, who was the second-overall draft pick in last June’s NHL draft and who made his NHL debut last month against the Red Wings at Pepsi Center.
Like any wide-eyed teenager, Landeskog was mesmerized at the sight of seeing the Wings’ impressive group of all-star Swedes. The only thing that made the Avalanche’s Opening Night more special was that the player who Landeskog idolized most as a young boy was honored that evening.
“Peter Forsberg was my favorite player growing up,” said Landeskog, who leads all NHL rookies with 51 shots on goal through 14 games. “It was pretty surreal, but I still let myself enjoy that for a little bit, but not too much. I have to focus on what I’ve got to do, and focus on helping my team win. But at the same time, especially that first game, I was going to allow myself to soak it all in. You only play your first NHL game once, so I had fun with it.
“You couldn’t write a better script for my first NHL game, that’s for sure. I was able to fly my family over for the first game. Like any other Swedish kid, idolizing Forsberg, it was pretty cool, and then to be playing against all of those guys on the Red Wings.”
Landeskog had the opportunity to skate with a host of Swedish NHL stars during the offseason, including Douglas Murray, Henrik Tallinder, Nicklas Grossman, Jhonas Enroth, Marsuc Kruger and Jacob Josefson. It’s also where Stockholm native Niklas Kronwall
first met the budding star.
“He’s a really low-key, down-to-earth kind of guy,” said Kronwall, of Landeskog. “He’s a hard working power-forward, who is strong on the puck. I think he’s going to have a great career in the NHL because you can kind of tell right away with some guys that they have a determination, and he’s definitely one of those guys.”
In the few times that he managed to skate along side established NHL stars this summer, Landeskog said it gave him a different perspective about what life is like as a pro hockey player.
“Skating with some NHL guys and getting to know them off of the ice, too, and hearing some of their stories, and learning how down-to-earth they are, it was a lot of fun, especially Niklas,” Landeskog said. “I mean, he’s won the Stanley Cup, it was a pretty cool experience.”
Making the jump from juniors to the pros has been a huge adjustment period for the young forward, who turns 19 on Nov. 23. The key, he said, is not to get caught up in star-gazing too much.
“I’ve been learning stuff every day by coming to the rink," he said. "Just being around the guys, and being on the road trips, and obviously playing the NHL schedule is a bit different from junior, but it’s a lot of fun, especially on nights like this when you play against Datsyuk, Kronwall, Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Franzen. It’s a pretty neat experience to look over the glass there and see them sitting on the other bench. It’s a pretty cool thing.”