Nowadays in the NHL when you’re a top five choice in the annual entry draft, there are certain expectations that you could play in the NHL right away. You can look through the last few drafts and find a host of players who went from walking the stage in summer to jumping on the ice right away just a few months later to become the next wave of big stars in the NHL.
For second overall pick in the 2011 draft Gabriel Landeskog, he’s got a future teammate in Colorado’s Matt Duchene who did just that back in 2009. At 6’0″ 207 pounds, Landeskog is already built like an NHL power forward and with the type of game he can bring, he could provide a huge boost to the Avalanche lineup right away. With a top six that includes Duchene, Paul Stastny, and Milan Hejduk there’s room to crack the lineup to be a force.
One guy who thinks that Landeskog is NHL-ready right now is Kitchener Rangers coach Steve Spott, Landeskog’s coach in junior hockey. Spott tells The Washington Times’ Stephen Whyno that the stud winger is ready to roll for the Avalanche right away and doesn’t expect him back in Kitchener next season.
“I talked with Greg Sherman [Avalanche GM]; they’ve been pretty up front, and they’ve been honest with me that they expect Gabe to be in Colorado next year,” Spott said. “They’re gonna have a younger group of guys, so where he’s got him penciled in right now, we won’t get him back. It’s unfortunate for Kitchener Ranger fans, but that’s our job.”
In last year’s draft, we saw five players (Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, Jeff Skinner, Alexander Burmistrov, and Cam Fowler) make the jump straight into the NHL. This year’s draft class is a bit more unclear as to who might stay and who might head back to juniors and college hockey but with Landeskog’s size, skills, and the opportunity in front of him he’s got a great chance to make a big first impression.
The opportunity for Landeskog to jump right in is there. Outside of Duchene, Stastny, and Hejduk the Avalanche have the likes of David Jones, T.J. Galiardi, and Chuck Kobasew to compete with for time in the top six. If Peter Mueller is able to recover fully from concussion problems, he’d assuredly have a spot in that mix but there’s no timetable set for when he can play again, if at all. Those other players aren’t all that impressive and if Landeskog can subscribe to the the idea of seizing the day he can be a top line player for Colorado right away.