Thu Jun 02 09:50pm EDT
Buzzing The Net is profiling Canadian Hockey League players who are in their NHL draft season.
Gabriel Landeskog is ready to make the leap.
The Kitchener Rangers captain might not go No. 1 overall in the NHL draft, but from the sounds of it whatever organization he lands with is intent on having him in its opening night lineup.
"Pretty much, 15 out of 16 teams," the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Stockholm native said Thursday when asked if the teams he's interviewed with during the NHL Scouting Combine have asked if he feels ready for The Show. "I told them yes. I feel like I'm ready. There's parts of my game that I feel like I need to get better at, but I'm willing to put in the work ... Being not the most skilled guy out there, I got to rely on my work ethic and take care of my own end first."
Landeskog, who is very light on his feet for a player his size, will step into a supporting role next season since he plays a sensible, relatively mistake-free game. On the latter count, he was plus-27 this season after almost being a minus player during his maiden North American season, when the Rangers had a stronger team.
The real question is his offensive upside. Landeskog posted good if not gaudy numbers in Kitchener, counting 36 goals and 66 points in 53 games. Granted, his season ended up being split in two by the high ankle sprain which caused him to miss out on virtually the whole world junior tournament, where he watched Sweden come within about 10 minutes of reaching the final before it ultimately finished fourth.
Ultimately, Landeskog's NHL team gets a player who through skill and will, broke the mould for Swedish prospects by coming through major junior hockey. Landeskog's willing to run with the role of being a poster boy for imports in the CHL, even though staying in Sweden hasn't hurt a large number of his countrymen.
"Maybe it's the fact that I got to wear the 'C,' " he said when asked about the value of his move to Kitchener. "Maybe it's the fact that the organization believed in me on and off the ice."
"I'm pretty happy with how I started the year. I had a pretty good first half. And leading up to the world juniors with injury [a high ankle sprain] wasn't too great. But yes, the first half is something I can carry with me."
2. What was it like to be captain in a major junior hockey market such as Kitchener (avg. attendance: 6,340, third-highest in the OHL)?
"It's something that I'm really proud of. It's something not many people get to enjoy and experience. I'm just going to take it as a compliment to who I am a player."
3. Who has helped you prepare for what you're in for over the next few weeks before the draft?
"I don't think you can be too ready for it. You just have to go in with an open mindset and go in and to enjoy it. Obviously, having a couple friends go through it last year like [former Rangers teammate and Carolina Hurricanes centre] Jeff Skinner really helped. He just gave general tips, don't sweat it and be yourself."
4. How did the atmosphere in Kitchener compare to what you were used to as a junior in Sweden?
"Playing junior hockey in Sweden, we had about 50 parents watching. You go to Kitchener, you have a six-and-a-half thousand every game. That's one of the reasons why it's so special, just the media around the whole thing and this being my draft year raised the bar a little bit. Bottom line, I think the hockey over here is a lot better than the hockey over there if you compare the two junior leagues."
5. When you go into a meeting with a NHL team and see someone such as Steve Yzerman (NHL legend and Tampa Bay Lightning GM), is it intimidating?
"A little bit, you know, I was in an elevator with Mark Messier, which is special. They're well-respected men and you don't want to do anything to step on their toes."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: CHL Images).