It began at the tender age of four years old; watching his brother from the stands of his very first practice.
And while Gabriel Landeskog’s brother would decide the game of hockey wasn’t for him, the Swedish youngster would drag his father out to the area the next day. And the next day. And the day after that.
It was history in the making for the Kitchener Rangers captain; a storybook that is still writing itself years later.
And while the most important chapters are still being written, it was at a tender age that the story began to arc.
“It was probably when I was 10 or 11, when I got to start playing for Hammerby, in Stockholm; one of the top teams in the country at that point,” Landeskog said. “That’s really when my coach, Mattias Jonsson, was really emphasizing hard work to take you to the next level, and if you want to, you can get to the next level, and get to the big leagues. I guess that’s kind of when I really started to motivate myself, and dedicated myself. I stopped playing soccer, and started really focusing on hockey; I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
It was great advice for Landeskog to heed.
The next few years would be critical in Landeskog’s life, making the jump to Djurgården by the age of 15, amongst their junior squads. But it was his international play that really had scouts taking notice.
Donning the captaincy at every international tournament he would play, the native of Stockholm was able to elevate his play onto the big stage enough to be taken 3rd overall in the CHL’s Import Draft in 2009.
Now 17, Landeskog was ready to make the move across the pond and make his mark on North America.
It was a decision that would benefit both himself and the Rangers, who would name him captain, their first European captain in franchise history.
“As a person, I try to be a leader, when I play hockey and in the dressing room; just try to be a good teammate. I show respect to my teammates, and fans, and all those who surround me.”
It’s a reputation that has any who know the young man, willing to share. The word class comes up on a regular basis when asked to describe him as a person.
“Oh, Gabes,” teammate and fellow 2011 NHL Entry Draft eligible Ryan Murphy said with a laugh. “Gabes is a great guy, on and off the ice. He’s one of my best friends on the team.”
But leadership isn’t the only quality Landeskog has brought to the Rangers, a team that has produced Jeff Skinner, Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis and Mike Richards, who Landeskog himself has drawn comparisons to.
“I try to be as good as I can; both in my own zone and the offensive zone,” the six-foot-one winger said. “Obviously I want to try to create offence, and score some goals.”
And while he’s ranked fifth overall by Future Considerations heading into the draft, Landeskog isn’t about to rest on his laurels.
“I think I’m very aware of what I need to improve in the future. It’s been something I’ve been working on throughout the season; just quick feet, and try to improve my skating, which is important with the increased pace of the NHL.”
Though Jonsson’s message was delivered and received nearly eight years ago, it still holds true in Landeskog’s attitude.
One that will make him successful at the next level.
Brian Huddle is a Future Considerations correspondant and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!