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Jeff Skinner to Gabriel Landeskog; "Enjoy the ride"

Gabriel Landeskog is now in the same skates Jeff Skinner was, one year ago.

The former road trip room mates with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers are now property of NHL clubs.  Skinner was selected 7th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes last June.  On Friday, Landeskog went second overall to the Colorado Avalanche.  

While there was some doubt that Skinner would stick with an NHL club for an entire season, there is widespread speculation that Landeskog is the most “NHL-ready” prospect available in this year’s draft.

And so, like his former teammate in Kitchener, Landeskog could find himself in the NHL next season as an 18-year old.

Landeskog spoke to www.sportsnet.ca after he was selected…

Skinner, now 19, just won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year. His advice to Landeskog is simply to keep things in perspective.

“Just along the lines of enjoying it and not getting too far ahead of yourself,” Skinner offers. “When I look back on my year, it’s sort of overwhelming how much I’ve been through and how many memories I’ve created. But when you’re going through it, you’re just sort of focused on the moment.”

Besides the Calder Trophy, Skinner also became the youngest player ever to compete in the NHL’s all-star game. It’s the sort of dream season that no rookie really expects, least of all at the age of 18.

It’s not all easy as a teenager in the NHL. Skinner says the off-ice challenges include moving away from home, learning to look after yourself and getting proper rest and nutrition.

But he says the building blocks of this part of “being a pro” were laid during his time in Kitchener, where the Rangers stressed maturity and professionalism.

“They (the Rangers) are so professional in the way they treat the players.  Plus, the OHL does a great job of setting up a season that’s as close to pro as you can come when you’re 16 or 17,” Skinner explains.”  But the Rangers are such a classy organization and there are so many quality people in it that make it work. And I think that’s what makes it successful.”

The Carolina Hurricanes must agree that the climate in Kitchener is a successful one. For the second consecutive season, the Hurricanes have selected a Ranger with their first round pick.

Defenceman Ryan Murphy, also a teammate of Skinner’s in Kitchener, was selected 12th overall by the ‘Canes on Friday night.  Murphy talked to Sportsnet.ca before Friday’s first round.

“He’s a great player and, obviously, his skill speaks for itself,” Skinner says of Murphy. “He’s so unique. That’s what sets him apart from everyone. I’m pretty excited for him.”

Less excited might be Rangers head coach and general manager Steve Spott. While it’s been well-documented that Landeskog may be ready to make the leap to the NHL after just two seasons in Kitchener, could the Hurricanes keep Murphy as an 18-year old, just like they did with Skinner last year?

The off-season just got a whole lot more interesting in Kitchener.