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Colorado Avalanche Top 25 Under 25; #11 JT Compher looks to rebound after tough year

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We’ve seen flashes of something more, but on the whole, Compher was a bad fourth-liner last season.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Edmonton Oilers
Colorado Avalanche forward JT Compher (37) celebrates his overtime winning goal against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place. 
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey community. Eight writers and 320 readers ranked players under the age of 25 as of September 1, 2018 in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Each participant used their own metric of current ability and production against future projection to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.

Initially traded to Colorado, along with Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, and a second-round pick in the Ryan O’Reilly deal with Buffalo. JT Compher was a two-year-old prospect playing at the University of Michigan at the time of the trade, and was considered one of the better center prospects in the Sabres’ system at the time. He continued that stretch of solid production, posting 63 points in 38 games as the captain of the Wolverines, good for second on the team in scoring only to linemate and Winnipeg Jets 30-goal scorer Kyle Connor. Compher was also nominated for the Hobey Baker award in that year, but lost to Jimmy Vesey.

However, from that point onward, Compher’s career never reached the same levels of the two NCAA stars in the conversation above.

Last season, Compher was ranked sixth in our Top 25 Under 25 after a solid AHL season where he posted 31 points in 40 games, and a 20-game cup of coffee in the NHL during the infamous 48-point season. However, his stock dropped after a rough first full season with the Colorado Avalanche, and by rough I mean he was one of the worst forwards on the team.

Compher shifted back and forth from playing on Carl Soderberg’s wing to playing as the fourth-line center on the Avalanche, a position he has played on and off since college. In the league this year, Compher was given some power play and penalty kill time early in the year, but his usage on special teams tapered as the season went on. His shot metrics were poor, meaning he gave up more shots than his line took when he was on the ice, and his goal metrics were even worse.

In 69 games, Compher was on the ice for 36 goals against at even strength while only scoring 17. That -19 goal differential was far and away the worst on the team. When you look at his expected goal metrics, (taking shot location information and using probilities to guess how many goals a player is expected to score/give up while on the ice) there wasn’t a very big difference, meaning there’s no indication that this was an unlucky year.

There is still room for him to grow as a player, though, as his linemates were constantly changing throughout the year. Sven Andrighetto was a particularly good linemate for Compher, as the two consistantly out-shot and out-scored the opponent when they were on the ice. At this point in time, the Avalanche lack substantial depth at the forward position (compared to teams like Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Winnipeg), meaning it’s hard for the coaching staff to give Compher some easier minutes.

Compher has played near the top of the lineup on most of the teams he has been on. He’s either been that great player on the team, or played with one (Jack Eichel in the USNDTP, Connor and Zach Werenski at Michigan). But now that he’s in the NHL, he hasn’t gotten the chance to play with the Nathan MacKinnons, Mikko Rantanens, or Gabriel Landeskogs. Aside from the Soderberg line, Compher had the worst zone starts among the forwards at even strength. He just hasn’t done enough to warrant time with those top-six guys, and be given the opportunity to get some more offensive zone time and better linemates.

There is still a talented player in Compher, he scored three game-winning goals where two of whom were in overtime (see Mike Babcock’s face above). The offense is there when given the chance, but for right now, he needs to show that he can play well at both ends of the ice and make do with what he’s got before he can get the opportunity to grow.

Poll

How many points will JT Compher score on the Avalanche this season?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    40+
    (74 votes)
  • 43%
    39-30
    (130 votes)
  • 25%
    29-20
    (75 votes)
  • 6%
    <20
    (18 votes)
297 votes total Vote Now