The Colorado Avalanche used their 2nd overall draft pick to choose Gabriel Landeskog in the 2011 NHL Draft. He’s just what the team needed and still needs.
Before the NHL Draft a common practice is to redraft previous years. Naturally, the thought is that with hindsight you’ll draft differently — you’ll draft better. When people, or entities, redraft based entirely on statistics, they often fail to take into account the entire impact a player has made on a team.
Enter Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog.
The NHL recently released a redraft of 2011. In the real draft, the Edmonton Oilers used their first-overall selection to choose center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He’s maybe not been quite the player they were hoping for with a first-overall pick, though he was on-pace for a career season this year. His name always comes up in trade talk, though, so maybe the Oilers would prefer if they’d selected Nikita Kucherov.
With the number-two pick in the draft, the Avalanche chose Gabriel Landeskog. The NHL chose a different path:
In their redraft, they had the Avalanche choose center Mark Scheifele, whom the Winnipeg Jets took at number seven. They made that selection supposedly based on hindsight.
As I said, people, or entities, usually make these picks based strictly on statistics. So, let’s look at the statistics.
Mark Scheifele: 519 GP, 180 goals, 264 assists, 444 points, .85 points per game
Gabriel Landeskog: 633 GP, 198 goals, 262 assists, 460 points, .72 points per game
Landeskog has played 114 more games than Scheifele but only accrued 16 more points. Scheifele’s points per game is that much higher. There you go. Time to start wringing our hands and looking longingly at the player we could have had instead of Gabe Landeskog.
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Oh, wait, there’s something in hockey called intangibles, and Landeskog is positively oozing them.
Because you’re not just exchanging a player for a player, or even a forward for a forward, or even a star for a star. You’re exchanging a player for a captain.
When Gabriel Landeskog was named captain of the Avalanche in 2012, he was then the youngest-ever player at 19 to be named an NHL captain. He has served as our captain for eight seasons. The only other player in franchise history who was captain longer was, of course, Joe Sakic — 13 for the Avalanche, 16 total. Even the great Peter Stastny only served as captain for five years.
By contrast, Scheifele has served as an alternate captain just since 2016, so four years.
I don’t mean to throw shade on Scheifele’s leadership abilities because we all know you don’t have to wear a letter to be a leader. Rather, I want to highlight the biggest intangible that Landeskog specifically brings to the table — leadership.
The Colorado Avalanche didn’t choose a player whom they thought would be their next superstar — they’d already done that with Matt Duchene. Instead, they chose the player who would take over the reigns for Avs great Milan Hejduk as captain of the team.
They chose him specifically for that reason because of all the strength of character he’d shown leading up to the draft. You have to remember, his father, Tony Landeskog, had been grooming him since childhood to be a leader on his teams. Indeed, he’s been captaining teams since he was 12 years old.
Again, no shade to Mark Scheifele, but obviously Colorado didn’t see that same quality in him that they did in Landeskog, a young man who’d left Sweden at 16 to come to North America to cement the different aspect of the game, to learn how to be independent, and to become flawless in his English speaking skills. That is a rare and special kind of young man who can think so far ahead.
And it’s a rare quality the Colorado Avalanche wanted in their selection in 2011.
I don’t think there’s a hockey fan alive who’d say Landeskog hasn’t lived up to that aspect of his potential. He may not be the superstar of the team, but he doesn’t have to be. He’s got Nathan MacKinnon for that. And he’s still a top-three forward — a power forward. The kind of player who will stick up for the superstar even though he, himself, is an elite player.
He is also essential to the team’s identity. The team runs the way Landeskog wants it to run. He sets the stage, along with his fellow leaders, and the other players follow his lead. The entire fabric of this team would be different if the Colorado Avalanche hadn’t selected Gabe second-overall in 2011.
Again, no offense to Scheifele, but I think it would have been worse.
So, no, NHL.com you can keep your extra .13 points per game because you can’t put a price on the intangibles Gabriel Landeskog brings.
Colorado Avalanche fans wouldn’t mind re-drafting the #11 selection, though. I’ve done my research — Duncan Siemens was scouted to go at that position, and for the life of me I don’t know why. The NHL has us choosing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at that point, and I’d agree with that pick.