The mid-season rankings for the 2011 NHL Draft were released the other day on TSN, with a new number one in Adam Larsson from Sweden. The competition is stiff this year, with no 1-2 punch combination like last year’s Taylor vs. Tyler debate, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog and Sean Couturier coming in close on Larsson’s heels. But Ottawa fans should keep their eyes on Gabriel Landeskog, who may have all the markings of a future Senators Captain.
An excellent all-around player and the only European Captain in the Ontario Hockey League, Gabriel Landeskog is the ideal choice for a team looking for a credible succession plan. Daniel Alfredsson, while a franchise player for Ottawa and the NHL’s longest-serving Captain, would be a great mentor for Landeskog and could help ease him into a star role for the Senators. It would be a match made in heaven for the Ottawa faithful, much like Mario Lemieux stepping out of retirement to take Sidney Crosby under his wing for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
While he’s not quite Crosby, Landeskog has been called the Swedish Mike Richards by the coach of the Kitchener Rangers: he is the full package. He’s got leadership skills, he’s a team player, and he does it all on the ice, making plays, scoring goals, and even fighting when he needs to. He’s 6 feet tall and 201 pounds, a good size for a winger and of all the candidates for the top 10, he looks NHL-ready. Scouts say that he could easily put away 50 points a season and his mid-season numbers look good.
Unfortunately, Landeskog is injured at the moment and won’t be able to show off for the scouts at the prospects game on Wednesday. Some IIHF fans may have caught a glimpse of him during the last World Juniors when he played alongside countrymen Adam Larsson and Robin Lehner, the goaltender in the wings for the Ottawa Senators. Although largely eclipsed by Larsson’s breakout performance at the WJC, there’s no doubt that Landeskog is going to be a top draft pick, if not THE top pick.
Whether it’s Larsson or Landeskog, 2011 would mark the first NHL draft where a Swede was taken first overall since Mats Sundin. All signs point to this happening, as both players have made a strong impression on teams. While playmakers like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sean Couturier will also be in demand, the two Swedes look ready to jump on the ice now and for many bottom of the barrel teams this season, this will be a decisive point.
Ottawa currently stands to take the 4th pick in the 2011 draft. With Landeskog slotted in third place, a lot of Ottawa fans would feel better if our team was slightly ahead in the draft pick. This is by no means a call for the team to slack off and forget the rest of the season, although the temptation is strong. The addition of Landeskog to Ottawa would not only be a reasonable succession plan for Alfredsson, it woud also provide Ottawa with a Swedish elite base of players in the forms of Landeskog, Lehner and Erik Karlsson.
This team needs to rebuild and they can’t afford to make the mistake that they did last year by opting out of a draft pick. Landeskog is the ideal candidate for Ottawa and the best fit. And he’s a player that Ottawa fans would be willing to wait and watch for as he develops. Even if it takes a few season to get there.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.