Gabriel Landeskog, captain of the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, is one of the top 5 prospects in this June’s NHL Entry Draft. He played in Ottawa Sunday afternoon against the 67’s and I was in the arena to watch him play and assess his talent as a potential Ottawa Senator next season or in the future. I am not a professional scout and I fully realize that one game does not a career make, but it is the one time he is visiting Ottawa and (barring a playoff match-up) the only time I will get to see him in person.
Landeskog is a Swedish product, who is in his second season with the Rangers. He is averaging well over a point a game (62 points in 47 games) in the OHL this season. As a member of team Sweden’s entry in the World Junior Championships in Buffalo, he was limited to one game due to injury, but he had a goal and an assist, and was +3 in that one game. Landeskog was ranked as the top North American skater (players are ranked where they play, not where the were born) by NHL Central Scouting in its mid-term rankings in January. TSN’s rankings had him at 3rd, behind Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson and WHL star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Landeskog entered this game with high expectations as did the Rangers club as they are fighting with Owen Sound for the division lead and a higher playoff seed. Kitchener was playing the dreaded third game in 2 1/2 days on the road, coming off a shutout in Belleville the previous night.
Landeskog was a key player on what appeared to be Kitchener’s second line, playing a key role on the power play as well as killing penalties. He is a solid skater, has NHL size and isn’t afraid to use it. Defensively, he is aware of where he should be and although he plays mostly as a right winger, many times he appeared to have the centre’s role in the defensive zone.
Offensively, however, I was left disappointed by his performance. There was only one shift, in the third period, where he dominated with the puck on his stick. That shift belonged to him, and he created three solid scoring chances. The shift ended with him driving to the net and putting one past Ottawa goaltender Shane Campbell, however, the goal was called back because he kicked it in. Honestly, as impressive as this shift was, I had expected a few more like it throughout the game from a player of his pedigree.
Gabriel Landeskog will be a good NHL player. Perhaps he will become a great NHL player. His stats line for the night was 0G-0A-0PTS, and he was -2. He did have 3 or 4 shots on goal, by my own estimation. In this particular game, he didn’t show me why he would be deserving of the first overall pick with any type of consistency. Call it being 18 years old, call it playing 3 games in less than 3 days, call it an off game, but it just wasn’t there today.