DENVER, USA – Gabriel Landeskog is not shy about making difficult decisions, and so far the 19-year-old has proved he can back up those decisions with impressive performance, but today he has taken on his greatest challenge yet. The teenager from Stockholm was named captain of the Colorado Avalanche, becoming the youngest C-man in league history.
The previous youngest captain was Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, and the difference between the two is minute. Crosby was captain at 19 years, 287 days while Landeskog is 19 years, 277 days.
But Landeskog is also trying to follow in the footsteps of retired Joe Sakic, the heart and soul of the Avs (and, previously, the Quebec Nordiques) for some two decades to take the team to its former and recent glory when it won the Stanley Cup twice in the first decade of the 21st century.
After Sakic retired, Adam Foote and Milan Hejduk had brief stints as captain, but now Landeskog is being picked by the organization to be the face and future of the team. He won the Calder Trophy in 2011-12, and before that he played in the Ontario Hockey League.
“I'm so humbled and grateful for this opportunity,” Landeskog said. “And what an honour to follow the footsteps of the past captains for the Avalanche.”
Few Swedes leave home in their early teens to play junior hockey, but Landeskog knew what he wanted – to play in the NHL – and he was convinced this was the right decision for him. Although only 16, he joined the Kitchener Rangers for the 2009-10 season, and a year later he became the first European to be named captain of the storied OHL team, despite being European, despite having only one year of junior hockey to his name, and despite being only 17.
Landeskog was drafted by the Avs second overall in 2011 and stepped right into the NHL at age 18. He led the team in goals, 22, and tied for the league lead with 52 points as a rookie, along with Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall selection.
Although the Avs missed the playoffs in 2011-12, Landeskog joined Tre Kronor for the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, co-hosted by his birthtown, and he was named an assistant captain behind captain Daniel Alfredsson.
Not only is Landeskog’s rise within the ranks of the Avs stunning, so is his apparent willingness to take on the challenge of being the leader. Colorado is a young team, to be sure, but Landeskog is fearless when it comes to the additional pressure and work that go along with being named captain.