The Colorado Avalanche will have their own Calder Memorial Trophy to give out among their rookie class who are all breaking into and establishing their careers in the NHL this season. This prestigious honor will be voted on by you, the readers at Mile High Hockey at the conclusion of the season.
The all-star break comes at a time where the Colorado Avalanche are just past the halfway point in their schedule with 48 games played. This is a good time to check up on the Avalanche rookie class which has seen ten rookies dress for the team thus far. The group has separated a bit into mainstays and call-ups, with each group looking to solidify a role by the end of the season.
Samuel Girard (34GP: 0G, 9A, COL only)
Arguably the greatest impact to the Avalanche is their bright young defenseman Samuel Girard who has bounced around is usage but with an average of 17:04 time on ice and is always making a difference in some way. With Tyson Barrie on the mend Girard stepped in and took over the first unit power play QB duties and flourished with more time in offensive situations by racking up seven points in those 13 games. Girard has one of the higher Corsi For percentages on the team at 49% and is one of the best shot suppressors. His defensive game has been quite impressive as he uses positioning and an excellent stick in the defensive zone and has yet to take a penalty as a member of the Avalanche. All the while possessing incredible skating agility and mobility with the puck coupled with an extremely high hockey IQ and playmaking sense. The sky is the limit for Girard and it’s been a treat to watch him every night.
An example of Girard's defensive play and quick decision making
Alexander Kerfoot (45GP: 12G, 20A)
What to make of Alexander Kerfoot’s production of fourth highest on the team, just behind the trio of the Nathan MacKinnon lead line, with just averaging 13:24 minutes of ice time is quite the conundrum. Kerfoot often gets stuck with the leftovers on the fourth line and some games doesn’t even see ten minutes of time on ice a night yet he’s a consistent producer. Of the 12 points he scored in the last 18 games only four were on the power play and three weren’t primary. His high hockey sense and passing ability is what drives a lot of his production. Kerfoot is currently tied for sixth in the rookie scoring race as well. He’s earned a bigger role on the team, there just isn’t one to give him at the moment.
Tyson Jost (31GP: 3G, 7A)
An injury and a rehabilitation trip to San Antonio slowed Tyson Jost’s progress in the first half of the season but lately, he’s been finding his groove and even starting to show up on the scoresheet more often with five points in the month of January. Jost is seeing his minutes slowly climb up and has been given more of a steady third line role lately. Jost is starting to show flashes of what got him drafted 10th overall such as strength down low and shot generation with a wicked release. Even if the process and transition has been slower than expected, he’s making steady progress and a 6% shooting percentage should turn in his favor. Jost is primed for a strong second half of the season to close out his rookie campaign.
JT Compher (35GP: 8G, 7A)
A couple injuries have derailed Compher’s ability to really feel out his role on the club. He’s a master on the penalty kill as a strong breakaway threat and he’s trusted in defensive situations even if he’s a somewhat inexplicable -16, the worst on the team by a comfortable margin. Compher has picked up his CF% to a respectable 48% after languishing near the bottom of the team for a while. He is second among Avalanche rookies with 16:43 average at time on ice and has generated 80 shots on goal. It will probably take until the end of the year and beyond to really figure out if he will be a fixture as a second or third line player but his versatility and tenacity is very valuable to the club.
Anton Lindholm (33GP: 0G, 1A)
Lindholm has managed to hang on the Avalanche roster all season, mostly as the sixth defenseman. He is a coach’s dream who makes simple plays and throws the body around a bit. Problem is he still makes his share of blunders and doesn’t make up for it in either possession (at just 45 CF%) or with production. Good news is he finally scored his first NHL point after 44 career games so perhaps that part of his game will begin to come around. Lindholm will probably see some scratches with Tyson Barrie’s imminent return but should remain with the club.
Compher's overtime winner assisted by Girard
Dominic Toninato (13GP: 0G, 1A)
While he hasn’t seen much ice time at all, just averaging 7:42 over two call-ups, Dominic Toninato has shown value in a fourth line role as someone who can help flip match-ups in the Avalanche direction. He’s strong on the boards and with the puck. Albeit in a small sample size, Toninato leads the Avalanche at 56% CF. Compare that to every other call-up who has spent time in the same limited role and they top out no higher than 40% and that says something about how Toninato has performed. He might not pile up a bunch of points but he’s the type of player a team could build a 4th line around and the Avalanche would be wise to figure out how to put him in that role sooner than later.
AJ Greer (12GP: 0G, 2A)
One part power forward, one part agitator and one part playmaker makes up the potential of AJ Greer to the Avalanche who has seen his game mature with each call-up. The difficulty is in seeing where his role and ceiling eventually shakes out and how can he focus on his physical attributes without sacrificing skill. Greer is certainly a unique player for this club and will bring a lot of those tools when he finally finds a permanent place. Both of his assists this season were even strength, primary plays and he’s getting more involved with carrying the puck. He has only averaged 7:42 of ice time in his 12 games but the progress is there even if it’s tough to notice every game.
Andrei Mironov (10GP: 1G, 2A)
The Avalanche seem to be at a crossroads with Andrei Mironov. Early on it seemed they didn’t want to send him to the AHL, now it seems they don’t want to call him up. Getting used to North American ice in San Antonio is an understandable ask but he’s played 21 games in the AHL now and there doesn’t seem to be much of a plan to bring him back unless injuries hit. Mironov has a touch of skill with the puck but figuring out defensive coverage on smaller ice is still an adventure. With Mironov signed next year as well it is a wonder if this is a situation both parties want to continue.
Vladislav Kamenev (1GP: 0G, 0A)
Vladislav Kamenev is still recovering from that broken forearm suffered in his first game with the Avalanche back in November. Good news is Kamenev is starting to work out on ice in San Antonio. He might be ready to make another appearance in Colorado by the end of the season.
Duncan Siemens (1GP: 0G, 0A)
Served as the 7th defenseman in Colorado for a few weeks and got in one game to only see six minutes of ice time before getting sent down. The organization has seen him as a dependable minor league soldier for a long time but it’s clear they just have no desire to utilize him.
Another All-Rookie goal. Kerfoot from Greer and Girard.
Who is your top rookie?
Who is your top rookie?
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