ST. PAUL -- One member of the Colorado Avalanche told NHL.com at the NHL Scouting Combine that if he had the final say at the draft table, his choices for the second and 11th picks of the 2011 Entry Draft would have been Kitchener Rangers forward Gabriel Landeskog and Saskatoon Blades defenseman Duncan Siemens.
The rest of the Avalanche staff must have felt the same way, because that's how the club used its first two picks.
Friday's two selections, combined with four more over the final six rounds Saturday, saw the Avalanche come away with an abundance of size -- five of their six selections are at least 6-foot tall and weigh at least 185 pounds.
Topping the list is the 6-1, 204-pound Landeskog, a left wing with the Rangers who had 36 goals and 30 assists in 53 games this past season. A Stockholm native, he also served as team captain, a rarity for a European-born player in the Canadian Hockey League.
"He plays the game with so much passion, he plays the game hard, he's a great mentor for players that are younger and older," Kitchener coach Steve Spott told NHL.com. "It's maturity beyond his years. That kid doesn't need one game in the American league next year -- he should step right into the NHL.
"I think the team that gets him next year is going to get a player that helps them win a Stanley Cup."
Avalanche Director of Amateur Scouting Rick Pracey said what put Landeskog at the top of his list was his combination of skill, strength and character.
"All the players at the top of the board had similar characteristics as far as hockey sense; they were all very smart players," he said. "They all had skill. So what really put Gabriel over the top was his character and his approach to the game. We feel as a top player in your lineup, a front-line player -- which we believe he'll be for us -- he comes to the rink prepared. He plays a competitive game. He goes to the dirty areas of the rink, his down-low play, his net presence, his ability to stick around and compete and battle for rebounds, coupled with his skill, that was the difference. His character and his compete level."
Landeskog's leadership abilities -- besides captaining Kitchener, he's also captained Sweden's entries at international under-16, under-17 and under-18 tournaments -- also make him an attractive player.
"Clearly, it's all part of the package of a character individual who going forward we think has all the hallmarks of a professional," Pracey said. "We think he has his priorities in the right order. Can't wait to get him to Denver."
"I think it goes to that strength on the puck, it goes to his board play," said Pracey. "I think that he plays a pro-style game where he can do the little things and pay attention to detail, but also has the skill set and instincts of an elite player."
Pracey was equally as positive about Siemens, a 6-3, 196-pound physical force who had 43 points and 121 penalty minutes in 72 games.
The Avs likely saw more of Siemens than other defense prospects based on the fact that Siemens' defense partner was Colorado prospect Stefan Elliott.
"The qualities of big blueliner who could skate, that was something that was important for us," Pracey said of Siemens. "He's a smart player, he has the ability to move the puck. … For us, we thought he plays a very complementary game. We think he's going to be a big minute-type of player who will play in all situations. He's also going to make us a team that's difficult to play against. We like that he has this territorial approach to playing defense. We think he leans on people, we think he has a gritty side, we think he makes life unpleasant to the opposition."
Pracey said there are similarities to recently retired Avs captain Adam Foote in Siemens' game.
"From a style of play, I think that's fair," said Pracey. "I don't want to put that tag on him (or) put undue expectations on him, but that style of play … I think that is comparable. He moves very well for a big guy and he does have a competitive streak."
Landeskog has been regarded by multiple scouts as the most NHL-ready player picked during the two days here at Xcel Energy Center, while Foote's retirement and John-Michael Liles being traded to Toronto could leave an opening along Colorado's blue line that Siemens could fill. And it's not like Colorado is afraid to play 18-year-olds -- two of the most important pieces in the Avs' trip to the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs were 18-year-old forwards Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly.
"In terms of Gabriel's situation, physically he has a good head start," said Pracey. "The way he approaches the game, his strength on the puck and his strength down low will serve him well. Nothing is for sure in this business, but I think he'll have a very good chance to compete for a spot come camp."
In Siemens' case, however, Pracey was a bit dubious. Part of that is because if Siemens makes the NHL next season, he would be the youngest player in the League. His Sept. 7 birthday beat the eligibility deadline by one week.
"As for Duncan, size and his skating are to his advantage," he said. "Having a blueliner at 18 years old, and a real, real young 18 -- he's only a week away from being an underager. That's a lot for an 18-year-old defenseman. At the same time, he has a skill set, he thinks the game well and he has a head start with the size and the ability to move around the ice."
Pracey was happy about the four other players the team added on the second day of the draft -- especially fourth-round pick Joachim Nermark, a 6-foot, 185-pound center who had 26 points in 37 games with Linkoping's team in Sweden's junior league.
Eighth among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting in its final ranking, the Avs selected Nermark with the second pick of the fourth round.
"We think he's a smart, two-way player who can make plays and we think has untapped offense," said Pracey. "But regardless of whether that develops or not, he's a smart player. He does have some size and he can skate well. We're pleased with that selection."
While those players will develop and hopefully help the Avalanche eventually, the hope is their first two picks could have a more immediate impact.
"We think we've added a tremendous amount of compete to our lineup," said Pracey. "We like the (hockey) sense, we like the instinct, we like the size. These players have a combination of competitiveness, skill and instinct."