Who wore the Colorado Avalanche sweater number 92 best? It’s an uncontested vote. However, most players would be hard pressed to measure up to what team captain Gabriel Landeskog, #92, has accomplished.
Born to former Swedish Hockey League defenseman Tony Landeskog, hockey appeared to be in his blood. At 16, Gabe became the youngest player to ever play for Djurgardens IF elite team. But that was just the start of his groundbreaking hockey adventures.
He subsequently moved to Canada on his own to play in the OHL, still just 16 years old. He went on to be become the first European captain in franchise history for the Kitchener Rangers in October of 2010. But wait, there’s more. The Avalanche then selected Landeskog second overall in the 2011 NHL entry draft, the second highest Swedish player ever selected in the NHL draft. He also was the first Swedish player selected in the first round from the OHL.
Being a groundbreaker continued for Landeskog into his NHL career. He won the Calder Trophy as best rookie of the year. Then his career took a really big leap of faith. Landeskog was 19 and had ONE NHL season under his belt when Milan Hejduk handed over the reigns of the captaincy. Landeskog was named as the fourth captain of the Avalanche nine days before the NHL announced the lockout for 2012-2013. At the time he accepted the role, Landeskog became the youngest captain in NHL history. His record stood until October 5, 2016 when Connor McDavid was named captain of the Edmonton Oilers (at 20 days younger than Landeskog). Welcome to leadership, NHL style.
Landeskog continued to grow into his role as the Avalanche’s captain through the lockout season when he sustained a concussion. He survived the end of the Joe Sacco years before Coach Patrick Roy came on board. He lived through the Ryan O’Reilly hold out and subsequent contract shenanigans. He kept the team together despite a player wanting to be traded for over a year. He led the team through all the upheaval of Roy’s abrupt departure and a 48-point season. And he led his team, by now HIS team, into the playoffs last season.
Along the way, Landeskog also played some pretty good hockey. At only 25 years old, he’s already logged 506 NHL games over seven years. During his tenure with the club, ‘captain flow’ tallied 143 goals and 198 assists for 341 total points. He’s notched 78 power play points over his seven years. Lest one thinks he’s a typically ‘soft’ European style player, he’s also earned 391 penalty minutes, including a couple of questionable suspensions. Landeskog notched more than 50 points every season except for the lockout shortened year when he battled injuries and the dismal 48-point season when nobody could score. In his 13 postseason matchups, he tallied 11 points. He’s also the second longest serving Avalanche captain (Joe Sakic headed up the team from 1995-2009). And he’s still only 25 with a lot of hockey ahead of him.
Landeskog has grown into his role as captain. The challenges he weathered brought a level of maturity to his leadership, building the kind of wisdom one can’t purchase.
What made us good last year – not only as a line but as a team – was accepting our roles….
Landeskog told an interviewer during this year’s Media Day.
His humble yet honest leadership style helped transform a once toxic locker room into a band of brothers. And when he scored the empty net goal to nearly seal the deal for a playoff berth, every member of the Avalanche knew the captain came up big in the big moment.
Whether 92 ever ends up hanging in the rafters at the Pepsi Can has yet to be determined. But one thing is already clear – Landeskog will be a tough act to follow. Until then, enjoy the ride. This captain has more on his upcoming agenda than just a playoff appearance. Gabriel Landeskog wants to be a part of a Stanley Cup winning team.