Legwand finds his form

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:50 AM ET

NASHVILLE -- The sort of legacy Steve Yzerman created in Detroit doesn't happen often.

It takes at least a championship or two and many years of consistency to earn that kind of respect from peers.

David Legwand is a long way from reaching the heights of his idol but the Detroit native is finally on track in Nashville.

Gifted with speed and offensive skill that made him the second- overall pick in 1998, Legwand has taken a different path than his childhood hero. While Yzerman was all about offence when he came into the league, Legwand has focused on being a good defender. He took to heart the success Stevie Y and his team achieved when the Wings captain sacrificed statistics for a more well-rounded approach but Legwand has had to deal for years with hockey poolies' cries of 'draft-day bust'.

Well, until this year. Playing with Paul Kariya and Martin Erat for much of the season -- already the 26-year-old's seventh year with the Preds -- Legwand has posted 22 goals and 32 assists in 64 games without giving up any of the defensive details he's taken pride in.

Coach Barry Trotz doubts Legwand will get many votes for the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward despite a plus-31 rating but it won't be long before the youngster receives those kinds of accolades.

"He's grown to be one of the little bit unknown top players in the league," said Trotz yesterday. "He's always been a good player defensively, now he's expressing himself more offensively. It's taken a while for him. In the early years, we didn't have much to surround him with and give him a lot of support."

That support is there in bulk now. Erat, Kariya, Steve Sullivan, Jason Arnott and Peter Forsberg are all part of the high-powered Preds attack.

When Forsberg was brought in from Philly before the trade deadline, Legwand lost his top spot in the middle but didn't complain. With Forsberg injured, he has jumped right back in without missing a beat. Not only is there zero animosity, Legwand loves learning from the Swede, who sits to his right in the locker-room with Kariya on Legwand's left.

Yzerman will always be his hero but learning from Forsberg is a treat.

"Peter's kind of the same way," said Legwand. "He's done everything, been a captain, they're pretty similar.

"It's nice to get to learn from someone like that, someone who's been through the wars and the battles and won at every level."

If Legwand's progression continues, he could one day find himself wearing the 'C'.

"There's no reason why he can't," said Trotz. "He's really a young guy still but he seems like he's been in the league forever. He's still got some growth but I've been real pleased with his year."


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