Those were the words of Avalanche Executive Adviser/Alternate Governor Joe Sakic regarding #2 overall draft pick Gabriel Landeskog. I considered doing a blog entry before the draft, but it was hard not having seen the prospects play beforehand and not really knowing too much about them. However, I will say that I am very glad with the way it went down. Prior to last Friday, speculation had the Avs taking either Landeskog, Jonathan Huberdeau, Adam Larsson, or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. RHN was pretty much a dark horse because most people had Edmonton taking him #1 overall, which they did. Would the Avs have taken him if he did slip to #2? We'll never know.
Despite not being the #1 pick, let alone the projected #1 pick, Landeskog seemed to be the face of the draft, similarly to Duchene in 2009. Landeskog had a draft blog on Yahoo! and a video feature on NHL Network showing him and a several of the other guys at The Mall of America before the draft. From everything I've learned about this kid, he seems like the real deal. He's well-spoken; originally from Sweden, but played juniors in Canada so you couldn't even detect an accent in his English. His boyhood idol was Peter Forsberg and he's been compared to current players like Ryan Kesler and Mike Richards. He was also proclaimed the most "NHL-ready" out of the entire draft class. He's very polite and looks like a Swedish model. He's saying all the right things about knowing that his work has just begun and that he's going to have to work hard to make the team in September. Not a hint of haughtiness or entitlement at all. If he's for real, the Avs may have struck gold and have their top power forward for years to come.
While most of the talk around town has been about the golden-haired Swede, Duncan Siemens may prove to be just as vital of a piece in the Avs future plans. He has been described as the toughest player in the WHL. Physical, mean, tough. These are all words used to describe the Avs' #11 pick. Perfect considering the captain and frachise staple on defense Adam Foote recently retired. Siemens is only 17 however and will likely need another year in juniors before making the jump to the NHL. Especially with Stefan Elliott and Tyson Barrie expected to be NHL-ready this year.
When I first started this post, I was expecting to write about what seemed to be the inevitable signing of coveted free agent goalie Tomas Vokoun. I'll say one thing about the recent Avs transactions, they're unpredicable. First, prior to the draft, they traded away veteran defenseman and fan-favorite, John-Michael Liles for a 2nd round pick. Although I was a fan of JML, I do see the reasoning behind the move. Money, wanting to get bigger on D, etc. However, I would have liked to see them get more than just a 2nd rounder for a guy who had a career year last season.
On to today...the Avs signed Jan Hejda. I'm ok with that. A big, hitting, stay-at-home defensemen, who's further proof that the Avs are trying to get bigger and tougher on D (despite them retaining Cumiskey and Hunwick). The Avs also signed Chuck Kobasew today. Ok with that signing too. He has underachieved throughout his career for being a former 1st round pick, but he always played well against the Avs so maybe he'll be able to put together some consistancy and hopefully gel with a center like Stastny.
Initially I was going to stay away from the goaltending sitch since that was what my last blog focused on, but I would be remiss if I did not address it here and now. So, the Avs traded away a 1st round pick and a 2nd round pick for Semyon Varlamov. At 23, Varlamov is young and could certainly establish himself as a bona fide #1 goalie. However, a 1st round pick is a steep price to pay. Greg Sherman just bet his job on Varly. Bottom line. The Avs also signed veteran and former Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winner Jean-Sebastien Giguere. I've always been a fan of Giguere. I like this move. If he's healthy, he can still be a #1 capable goalie. Varlamov is the big gamble. What happened with Vokoun? Who knows, but as of this moment, he's still out there. Maybe he'll join the Evgeni Nabokov club. While Vokoun would have been the safer option, Varlamov's 23 years are more appealing than Vokoun's 35 and Varlamov is also a former first round pick with a lot of potential. At 23, perhaps he's just hitting his stride and will be the Avs starter for years to come. Only time will tell.