VANCOUVER CANADA - NOVEMBER 24: Mason Raymond #21 of the Vancouver Canucks tries to check Kevin Porter #12 of the Colorado Avalanche off the puck during the second period in NHL action on November 24 2010 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver British Columbia Canada. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
With all the injuries the Avs forward corps has sustained, Coach Sacco has trusted Kevin Porter with top line duties, giving him the opportunity to flank high-scoring center Paul Stastny. Mr. Clutch, as some call Porter, has scored 3 game-winning goals already this season - tied for 11th in the league with players like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. This certainly makes him a reasonable choice for the job.
Prior to losing players like Chris Stewart, however, Porter played most of his minutes on the third and fourth lines. What makes Sacco think he can handle the pressure of the first line? Perhaps it’s because of a solid top-line history.
24-year-old Kevin Porter, a natural center, was taken by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 4th round of the 2004 draft. He first gained national attention for his hockey skills during the 2002-2003 season when he appeared in the National Team Development Program Under-17s and finished 2nd in scoring (20g/11a). The following year, he captained the NTDP-U18 team which won the silver medal in the World Under-18 IIHF championships. He recorded 8 goals and 29 assists during the regular season.
In 2004, Porter began his career at the University of Michigan. As a freshman, he put up 24 points (11g/13a) in 29 games and was named to the 2005 World Junior Championship team for the United States. He had 5 points in 7 games. The 2005-2006 season would see his production with the Wolverines increase to a point-per-game pace. That year, he finished 3rd in team scoring, tied for 1st in goals scored (17), 2nd in power play goals (7) and led the team in game-winning goals (4). Once again, he was selected captain and led Team USA to fourth place at the WJC, maintaining nearly a point-per-game pace. His teammates voted him their best forward.
Porter continued to improve in goal-scoring by posting 24 goals and 34 assists in his junior year at U of M. He received Player of the Month honors and skated for both the CCHA Second All-Star team and the CCHA All-Tournament team. Yet it was in his senior year (2007-2008) with the Wolverines that he truly dominated. As captain of the team, he amassed 63 points (33g/30a) in only 43 games, ending the year second in scoring to Nathan Gerbe of the NCAA. While setting a scoring record (4 goals) in the East Regional Semi-Finals, he helped his team reach the Frozen Four in Denver. During the tournament, he was responsible for 5 of Michigan’s 7 goals and assisted on a 6th.
The 2008 year ended with Porter tying for 2nd in the nation with 15 power play goals. He also had 18 multiple-point games and a +33. He received the CCHA Player of the Year award, was a finalist for the league’s Best Defensive Forward award, named to the CCHA First and the NCAA West First All-Star teams, and named the Hockey Commissioners Player of the Month in January. He also was given honors as the University of Michigan’s Male Sportsperson of the Year. Over his collegiate career, Porter was the nation’s active scoring leader, scoring a total of 183 points. In addition to all his on-ice contributions, Porter volunteered for the Make-A-Wish foundation and spent time visiting patients at Mott Children’s Hospital.
The culmination of his years with the Wolverines, however, came when he was awarded the Hobey Baker as the top collegiate hockey player in the NCAA. Said his teammate Chad Kolarik, "He cares about the team first. He's upset that we didn't get to win a national championship. But when you're a Hobey Baker finalist, that's pretty special. He's done all these things to help us grow as a team and help us stay at the top of the nation as the No. 1 seed. It was his year, it was his team..."
After signing an entry-level contract with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008, Porter spent the last part of the season with their AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. He then made the Coyotes roster for the 2008-2009 season straight out of training camp. He tallied an assist in his very first NHL game. Porter played in Phoenix through the end of the year - having played 34 games and scoring 5 goals and 5 assists - before finishing the season with the Rampage (13g/25a).
He started out the 2009-2010 season in San Antonio where he played 52 games and put up 25 goals and 15 assists. He had a few call-ups to Phoenix during that time, but only took the ice for four games, during which time he was kept off the scoreboard. On March 3, 2010, Porter was traded to the Avalanche in a deal that included Peter Mueller and sent Wojtek Wolski to the Coyotes. The forward - now playing left wing - finished the season with the Avs’ organization, playing 16 games in Denver - scoring 2 goals and chipping in with an assist - and 4 games in Lake Erie (1g/0a).
The 2010-2011 season saw Porter making the Avs’ team from camp. Yet, after going pointless in 6 games, he was back in the AHL again, this time with the Lake Erie Monsters. He never got to play a game, though, before being recalled to Denver where he has remained for the season so far. He’s made the most of his 25 games with 5 goals, 3 assists and a +9. His ability to come up big in critical moments and his sincere work ethic have kept him with the Avalanche. As injured players return, however, his spot on the roster will be in question. Looking at his strong history of making the most out of his opportunities, it's a safe bet he will do whatever it takes to stay in Denver.