DENVER | That Gabriel Landeskog was the second overall pick in last June’s draft was not a surprise to most people, given his NHL-ready body and skills that allowed him to be almost a point-a-game player in the Ontario Hockey League.
Few people know about Landeskog’s abilities than Washington Capitals coach Dale Hunter, who saw the big forward plenty when he was with the London Knights and had to defend against him on the Kitchener Rangers.
Landeskog had four goals and three assists last season in six meetings with Hunter’s Knights. Hunter referred to him as a “complete player.”
“He hits, he takes the body, he can score. He’s very good defensively. He’s a big guy. He’s an all-around player,” Hunter said. “He was tough, too. He’d fight, too. He was the captain of the team and he fought against us a couple times. He’s a real leader; he’s a good player.”
Landeskog was good enough that there was no doubt he’d make the Avalanche’s roster out of training camp. The 19-year-old forward has been one of the league’s best rookies so far and has put up five goals and eight assists in 32 games while being a rare plus player on a struggling Colorado team.
The 6-foot-1, 204-pound Swede is a challenge even at this level and someone the Caps will be tasked with stopping on Saturday night.
“He’s a confident guy, and he plays the body. He knows how to play the game,” Hunter said. “One of them kids that can step in the NHL because he can play both ends of the ice.”