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.
In a year full of surprises for the Colorado Avalanche in the 2017-18 season, the emergence of Samuel Girard might be the greatest one. Included as the young piece on the backend that GM Joe Sakic insisted as part of the return in the Matt Duchene trade, it looks as if the Avalanche stole this bright talent from the Nashville Predators.
Girard made his debut with the team in Sweden during the Global Series and never looked back. He participated in every regular season game for the Avalanche from that point forward for a total of 68 and three playoff contests, missing the other three with an upper body injury. The 47th overall selection in the 2016 draft wasn’t certain to play in the NHL for the year when the season began but he impressed each coaching staff enough to keep him. Given the Avalanche’s struggles to develop their own drafted defensemen it was a big commitment from them to keep Girard in the NHL in his 19-year old season and play him in every game but the decision has already paid big dividends. His biggest moment in his career thus far was when Girard scored the opening goal in the game 82 play-in game for a playoff berth against the St. Louis Blues as seen below.
Girard was able to more than hold his own in the NHL as he contributed defensively despite his age and size. His 47.75% Corsi For and -0.25 CF Relative Rate show that he was middle of the pack on the team and his 57.98 Corsi Against/60 was fourth on the team among regulars and bested only by Mark Barberio on defense. Girard is a very intelligent player who knows his limitations and uses a good stick and positioning to gain leverage defensively. He couples that with fantastic agility and great vision as he is able to move the puck quickly out of trouble. Girard no doubt made an impact with puck movement and helped compliment players such as Erik Johnson, who spent over 240 even strength minutes together. Girard got more responsibility as the season went along and he was the team leader in even strength minutes per game at over 20 minutes per game in the three post season games he played.
With the addition of Ian Cole in the offseason hopefully the Avalanche coaching staff still plan to give Girard a considerable amount of minutes. While the total of 23 points and four goals was a good mark for a rookie campaign, Girard has the potential to provide more offense and he has yet to scratch the surface of the offensive upside he possesses. The full transition might not occur until Girard gets a bigger role on power play either by eventually taking over the first unit QB duties from Tyson Barrie or if the second unit becomes much more formidable. Girard scored eight power play points in 14 games while holding place in the first unit during Barrie’s month long injury absence so there is a considerable amount of potential for him in that role. Girard also needs to fully integrate into the offense at even strength and look to increase his 4% shooting percentage.
The poll results indicate that Girard is seen as a core piece for the Avalanche moving forward. There’s no denying his talents and worth to the organization, it is just a matter of how large of a role he will hold on the team heading into the future. He has all the tools to solidify into a core top four defenseman. If Girard gets the opportunity then he has all the capability to keep surprising and will be a big reason if the Avalanche can find any sort of sustained playoff success.