Heading into the 2011 NHL Draft, it was a foregone conclusion that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was going first overall to Edmonton. Colorado had the second pick and it seemed like most experts weren’t sure if they would go for a stalwart defenseman (Adam Larsson) or a big bodied Swedish forward (Gabriel Landeskog). As we know, they opted for the NHL ready Landeskog. He was pegged as a player that Colorado could plug into their top six and play on the power play.
Many predicted he would use his ice time to his advantage and be one of the Calder Trophy finalists. Despite earning a job in training camp, few fans knew about him. Yahoo fantasy hockey had him ranked at #456, behind players like Nino Niederreiter, Nikita Filatov and Ville Leino. In leagues that he was drafted, he was drafted at an average of 159th. Playing for the Avalanche, a team that wasn’t supposed to contend, hurt his exposure chances. Colorado has only been on national TV nine times, with three of those games coming in the last two weeks.
Not coincidentally, lately fans around the league have started to take notice of the young Swede. On two straight national games this week, Landeskog made his name known, scoring an overtime game winner against Anaheim and scoring a power play goal in a win over Buffalo. He also assisted on the game tying goal. His goal was his 20th to become the first rookie this season to hit the 20 goal mark.
Tonight, the Avalanche head to New Jersey. Landeskog will square off against fellow Calder Trophy candidate Adam Henrique. Both players are tied with 46 points, although Landeskog leads all rookies in goals (20).
Among rookies, Landeskog is second in both power play goals (5) and game winning goals (4), both one behind the current leaders Craig Smith and Matt Read respectively. He’s also taken the most shots, by far, of any rookie with 240. The Avalanche have relied on him as a top forward while their best player Matt Duchene has missed half of the season. He only trails Avalanche leading scorer Ryan O’Reilly and Paul Stastny in time on ice for forwards with 18:29 per game.
With less than a month left in the season, Gabriel Landeskog is hoping fans continue to remember his name heading into the most important time of year.