Once a month, we'll profile a player who could be the target of that Toronto 2011 first-round pick the Boston Bruins own. The idea is to base it on where the pick is, do some analysis on the player and where he might fit into Boston's system.
The idea is to raise this blog's profile even higher for hardcore Boston Bruins fans who are into the draft, and NHL draft fans in general, as even this has a Boston flavor, you can still learn a great deal about the players that *your* team may have a shot at. If you like the series, I'd ask that you pass on the link and help get the word out for those who have a serious interest in the NHL draft and who want unique content you won't find anywhere else.
So, with that in mind, here it is: the case for Gabriel Landeskog.
A possible future in Boston Bruins history:
Dateline: X-Cel Energy Center; St. Paul, Minnesota June 24, 2011
Center Sean Couturier and defenseman Adam Larsson have already heard their names called by the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils. After having had their photos taken on the main stage and exited stage left, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announces that the Boston Bruins are now on the clock with the third selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli takes the podium along with owner Charlie Jacobs, President Cam Neely, Assistant GMs Jim Benning, Don Sweeney, Director of Player Personnel Scott Bradley and Director of Amateur Scouting Wayne Smith.
"With the third pick on the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Boston Bruins are pleased to select...from the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League...right wing Gabriel Landeskog."
And with that, the Bruins confound certain fans who are convinced that they would take a defenseman with the second first-round pick obtained from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the September 2009 trade that sent Phil Kessel to Leafland. But, to view the third overall selection in such a black and white context as to judge it as a success or failure based on whether it is spent on the defense position is to not understand the long-established draft methods and philosophy of the Boston Bruins hockey club. Their belief in drafting the best available player at the top of the lottery will always be mitigated by organizational needs, but in Landeskog's case, he's such an enticing package and solid bet to perform that it would be hard to believe they would "settle" for a defenseman if Landeskog is in fact, near the top of their draft board.
This post will make the case for Landeskog as that BPA, and when you have finished reading, the added perspective will arm you with the tools to have a better understanding of what a player of his caliber could add to the Boston mix for the future and why he would be a superb choice for the team even if he will not address the immediate need for a skilled, puck-moving defenseman.
Gabriel Landeskog, RW Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Height 6-1, Weight: 207 Shoots: Left
Born: November 23, 1992 in Stockholm, Sweden
Originally property of the Djurgardens IF Stockholm hockey system, even playing for them for a few games in '08-09, becoming the youngest player ever to suit up for that Elite League team (3 games -1 assist) at age 16. Landeskog opted to come to North America in 2009 when the Kitchener Rangers traded for his rights with the Plymouth Whalers after that club made him the 3rd overall selection in the 2009 CHL Import Draft. Named Kitchener Rookie of the Year after 24 goals and 46 points in 61 games last season. Named to OHL All-Rookie Team. Named team captain by Kitchener Rangers Head Coach/General Manager Steve Spott on October 24, 2010. First European captain in team history. As of 18 Dec. 2010- had 25 goals and 45 points-- already exceeding rookie goal totals and just one point off of entire point total from rookie season. His hockey idols growing up: Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin. Now: Jarome Iginla, Mike Richards.
Strengths: A good skater with a long, powerful stride and strong balance. Good four-way change of direction. Hustles on every shift; plays with energy. Possesses an accurate shot. Underrated backhand-- can sky it up under the crossbar with limited time and space. Good passer and unselfish-- looks to find open teammates for scoring chances. Physical presence who relishes the hitting aspect of hockey and won't hesitate to fight if the situation warrants. Disciplined, plays in control despite his "angry" style. Tremendous leadership and intangibles: unparalleled work ethic, intelligence, sets the example with offensive and physical play, has mastered English and is "just one of the guys."
Need evidence? Here you go:
Two goals scored: one from the outside on a quick wrister, the other from in close with that sublime backhand discussed earlier. (Courtesy Kitchener Rangers, NHLDraftVideo)
One look at how quickly he comes to the aid of his teammate and how well he tunes overage player Jake Muzzin is really all you need to see in that vid to see why he was named captain.
Weaknesses: Initial first-step quickness is fine, but could stand to improve to get a little faster out of the gate. Shot isn't overpowering-- even with its quick release and accuracy-- not all that heavy.
Style Compares to: Mats Sundin/Brendan Shanahan hybrid. Has the size, skill, toughness to do it all. A born leader who is only going to get better. Doesn't have Sundin's high-end upside, but isn't that far off. Not quite as tough as Shanahan, but will take on all comers.
Why the Bruins would pick him: You can certainly make the case for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at No. 3 overall, but the 'Nuge is a small guy with outrageous offensive skills. Landeskog doesn't have that elite finishing/set-up ability, but he does all the other things better than the Red Deer star and No. 1 overall WHL Bantam Draft pick. The B's took their centerpiece of the future with Tyler Seguin. Now, imagine getting a legitimate, premium power forward to ride shotgun with Seguin for years to come? With skilled, but undersized options in the system like Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner, why wouldn't the Bruins add a bruising, hyper-competitive, tough, finishing power winger to the mix? He's a prototype Bruins type of player: he can skate, score, hit, fight, lead by example-- and those guys are pure gold in the NHL these days.
Why the Bruins would not pick him: If you go purely by upside, Nugent-Hopkins is the more skilled player and is a whirling dervish on offense with his blazing speed and ability to make plays in any gear. Dougie Hamilton or Kitchener teammate Ryan Murphy are two skilled two-way defensemen who would better address an organizational need than Landeskog would: he's more of a luxury at this stage. Hamilton is huge, while Murphy isn't but has the highest offensive/puck-moving potential of any defender in the entire draft class.
What scouts are saying:
"Extremely fit and strong, wins nearly every corner battle and isn't afraid to dust it up when necessary. Great teammate who plays with a contagious enthusiasm for the game. Should put up much better numbers this year now that he'll be seeing first line and PP duty."- Red Line Report, September 2010
Bust factor: Low He's got the size and ability to project solidly into the top-six both as a right wing and special teams ace. But, his immeasurables are off the charts, so even if he doesn't live up to the offensive billing, he's going to be a solid third-line NHL player simply because he can play the finesse, high-energy, or grinding, in-your-face game.
The Verdict: The real question facing the Bruins if they are picking third and Landeskog on the board is: how badly do they want a defenseman? If Hamilton or Murphy are the BPAs on their list, then obviously, Landeskog drops, (but won't make it out of the top-five). But the thinking here is, as good as Hamilton and Murphy have looked, they aren't the total package that Landeskog is. Simply put, this guy is a total winner, and the thought of putting a player of his caliber out there with Seguin, Marc Savard, Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, etc. would create matchup nightmares for opposing coaches.
Still not convinced? Then this TSN feature should close the deal for you.
(They took it off their site, but this is a YouTube special and worth watching)
We will be back in late January, 2011 for the next installment of "Bruins 2011 Draft: The Case For" and will take you all the way to the draft every month.