International Ice Hockey Federation

Landeskog keeps battling

Landeskog keeps battling

After shining at Worlds, Sochi comes

Published 22.01.2014 15:46 GMT+4 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Landeskog keeps battling
Gabriel Landeskog, the NHL's youngest captain, played in the World Championship in his native Stockholm for two straight years and will head to Sochi. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
When you look at the new era of Swedish hockey after Sundin, Forsberg, and Lidström, Gabriel Landeskog may be the crown jewel among the wave of talents.

Can the Colorado captain also become a leader with Tre Kronor?

Don’t forget: Landeskog is still only 21.

While it’s too early to tell whether Sweden’s 1990s generation will have the same international impact as the three ex-superstars all born in the early ‘70s, one thing is for sure: never before today has Sweden produced such an abundance of high-skilled players who are between ages 19 and 23.

Check out this list of skaters: Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, and Jakob Silfverberg (all born in 1990); Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Magnus Pääjärvi (1991); Landeskog and Adam Larsson (1992), Mika Zibanejad and Jonas Brodin (1993). In addition, there are goaltenders Jacob Markström (1990) and Robin Lehner (1991).

They’re all NHLers already. Perhaps one or two would have been better served by staying home a season or two longer, but that’s a story for another day.

As Landekog has discovered this year, being the captain of an NHL team isn’t always necessarily fun. With his Avalanche having struggled to find success, the 20-year-old Swedish left wing’s leadership has come under the microscope.

Wearing a letter on his jersey is hardly foreign to Landeskog. The Stockholm native became the first European captain ever of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers in 2010, and donned an A at last year’s IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

There, in his hometown where he began playing for Djurgården’s skating school at age 5 before eventually transferring to Hammarby at 9, he added five points as Sweden came sixth on home ice.

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Yet when the budding power forward was named the youngest NHL captain in league history back on 4 September (19 years and 286 days), he couldn’t have imagined that his sophomore campaign would've been this tough.

He has always been precocious. On February 21, 2009, Landeskog become the youngest elite player in Djurgården’s history, debuting at 16 years and 90 days in a game vs Brynäs Gävle.

In 2012 he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year with 22 goals and 52 points.

“I’m not used to this position that I’m in,” Landeskog said of being the captain of an NHL franchise at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. “I haven’t been through this before. So it’s something new. But I have a good group of guys around me that support me in decisions and everyday life as a captain in the National Hockey League.”

On March 13, Landeskog tweeted (in Swedish): “You’re not a real fan if you’re only there for the good times.” He was alluding to the difficulties Djurgården has experienced in Allsvenskan play. Traditionally a powerhouse, it finished fifth in the regular season and failed to return to the Elitserien after last year’s surprising relegation.

But there might have been an implicit statement to Avalanche fans in there as well, since this club is a long way from its glory days of the 1990s and early 2000s with Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Patrick Roy.

If there’s a silver lining to Colorado’s floundering, it’s the likelihood that Landeskog will be able to play for his country for a second straight year on home ice at the World Championship. Already in early April, Swedish national team coach Pär Mårts said that Landeskog would be picked provided Colorado doesn’t make the playoffs and Gabriel stays healthy.

So for the second consecutive year, Landeskog could have the privilege to represent his country in his home town, playing in front of friends and family, headed by father Tony, a defenceman for Hammarby in the Swedish top league in the early ‘80s.

Gabriel hasn’t achieved his full potential internationally so far, earning no medals. (He suited up for the fifth-place Swedish team at the 2009 World U18 Championship and, due to injury, appeared in just one game for fourth-place Tre Kronor at the 2011 World Juniors.)

Nonetheless, Landeskog is a strong candidate to be included on the Swedish roster for the Sochi Olympics, less than a year from now.

With that said, Mårts may need Landeskog to provide some valuable insurance – and a much-needed physical element – behind more experienced left-wing stars like Daniel Sedin, Johan Franzén and Loui Eriksson in 2014.

And if this young man can do that, he’ll be an important ingredient in Sweden’s recipe for gold – in the present, and for many years to come.


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