Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog's Greatest Hits so Far
Gabriel Landeskog will almost certainly get a trip out to Las Vegas in June for the NHL Awards, and may very well leave there with the 2012 Calder Trophy.
The NHL had several prominent rookies rise during the 2011-2012 season including Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils, Matt Read of the Philadelphia Flyers, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers, and of course Landeskog.
Nugent-Hopkins, 2011's No. 1 overall pick and Landeskog, the No. 2 overall pick finished the season atop the rookie leaderboard tied with 52 points.
Credit where it's due, Nugent-Hopkins would have likely run away with the rookie scoring race and subsequently the Calder, had he not been sidelined for 20 games with a shoulder injury.
While RNH supporters will argue that his points-per-game were significantly higher than Landeskog's (52 points in 62 games, .88 vs. Landy's .63), Landy should be rewarded for the fact that he played in all 82 games for the Avalanche this season, the only player on the team to do so.
The one game that Landeskog almost missed due to the flu, he ended up playing in and netting the game-winner in overtime.
Landy's 82 games are also impressive given his physical play and willingness to hit and take big hits. He dished out 219 hits, the most of any Avalanche player. Nugent-Hopkins, by contrast, registered 38 hits.
Landeskog was also the only rookie this season to lead his team in goals (22). He finished in the top-three in virtually every rookie stat category. Scoring: Tied first. Goals: Second. Assists: Third. Shots: First. Hits: Second.
He is also just the second rookie in NHL history to record at least 20 goals and 200 hits. Dion Phaneuf was the other in 2005-06.
While Nugent-Hopkins, Henrique, and Read are all very good rookies with promising NHL careers ahead, Landeskog is the complete package.
Let's take a look at some of the highlights from his memorable rookie season.
No. 5: The Draft
Entering the 2011 NHL Draft, Gabriel Landeskog was tabbed as the most "NHL-ready" player of the draft class.
He was chosen as the unofficial face of the draft class as he was mic'd up from before the draft all the way through it. Another Avalanche draft pick, Matt Duchene, did the same thing just two years prior.
Landeskog also had a draft blog on Yahoo! in which he posted several entries about his overall draft experience.
Landy was the perfect choice to represent the 2011 class with his "Ken Doll" good looks and the fact that he represents his native Sweden, while speaking impeccable English from his time in the OHL.
"He was pretty much our guy from the start," said Avalanche Executive Advisor/Alternate Governor Joe Sakic after the drafting of Landeskog.
No. 4: The First Goal
It wasn't the prettiest goal of his career, but he will certainly be one that he will always remember. On October 12th, 2011, in just his third ever NHL game, the Avs were trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets by one goal with just 41 seconds left in the third period.
Landeskog jumped to get out of the way of a Jan Hejda shot, and ended up redirecting it in off his skate. The Avs would go on to win the game in the shootout. With that tally, Landeskog became the youngest Swedish-born player to ever score an NHL goal.
There will be many, many more goals in Landeskog's career, but he will always remember that first one.
No. 3: "Johnny-on-the-Doorstep"
With time ticking down in Buffalo, it looked as if the Avs were going to fall to the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on March 14th.
Landeskog however, had other ideas. With only 12 seconds left on the clock, Landy took a pass from linemate Steve Downie back in the Avs' zone and flew down the ice past Sabres defensemen and got a shot on goalie Ryan Miller.
While the shot did not go in, Miller was unable to corral the puck and it was ultimately tapped in by Jamie "Johnny-on-the-Doorstep" McGinn. The Avs would go on to win the game in a shootout.
Landeskog did not score this crucial goal, but his drive, resiliency, and effort made the goal possible.
The Goal in Chicago
Back on October 22nd, the Avs were in danger of losing a home-and-home to the Chicago Blackhawks. The 'Hawks had defeated the Avs two nights prior in Colorado, and had scored three consecutive goals to go up 4-3 in that night's contest.
Having scored the Avs' third goal of the night, Landeskog was not done. With under two minutes left, Landeskog darted into the Chicago zone uncovered. Center Ryan O'Reilly made a brilliant pass to find Landy and Gabe put it home top-shelf on goalie Corey Crawford.
That was the first (but certainly not last) clutch goal of Landy's career.
Again, the Avs would go on to win the game in shootout fashion.
Early in the day on March 12th, it was reported that Landeskog had missed the team's morning skate and was questionable to play in that night's game, as he was "under the weather," presumably with the flu.
After an IV to help replenish his fluids, Landeskog was good-to-go (sort of) and laced up the skates for his team against the Ducks. His second period shot would break Peter Stastny's record for most shots in a season by a rookie in Quebec/Colorado franchise history.
While Landeskog was not at his best the entire game, he showed up when it counted most—in overtime. Defenseman Matt Hunwick made a nice steal and dished it to an open Landeskog who blasted a shot past goalie Jonas Hiller.
Once the shot went in, Landeskog, still no doubt feeling the effects of the flu, celebrated by falling forward face-first on to the ice. The celebration would come to be known as "Landeskoging," the latest meme to sweep through the Denver area.
While his Calder Trophy-worthy rookie season was certainly one to remember for Landeskog and Avalanche fans, this is simply the jumping-off point for big things to come for No. 92. At 19, he will only get bigger, stronger, faster and become an even more complete NHL player than the already is.