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Colorado Avalanche Top 25 Under 25: #3 Samuel Girard

For the final time in this series, G leaves his mark on the podium this year.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-St. Louis Blues at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Top 25 Under 25 is a collaboration by members of the Mile High Hockey staff. Eight writers have ranked players under the age of 25 as of August 1, 2022, in the Colorado Avalanche organization. Each participant used their own metric of value to rank each player. Now, we’ll count down each of the 25 players ranked.

Is there a more controversial player on the Colorado Avalanche than Sam Girard? Given how talented of a player he is many would think he is universally adored amongst Avs faithful, yet he isn’t. What’s more shocking is the fact that he still qualifies for this list. Although Girard feels like a homegrown prospect, he was acquired in November of 2017 at the ripe age of 19 as a centerpiece in the blockbuster Matt Duchene trade. In his first season with the Avalanche, he showed a lot of promise on the way to the team’s first playoff berth. The 24-year-old blueliner is already entering his sixth season with the Avalanche organization and still likely hasn’t shown his best in burgundy and blue.

When Girard arrived in Colorado, he was able to find a consistent role on a delipidated Avalanche team’s defensive core. On November 10, 2017, he made his debut with the Avalanche in Sweden during the team’s Global Series against the Ottawa Senators and played all 67 remaining games in the regular season. In those 68 games, Girard would score three goals, one of which in the famed Game 82 against the Blues, and tally 20 assists, his lowest total in any season with the Avalanche. In his four seasons with the team since Girard has racked up 18 goals and 103 assists, good for seventh on the team in that span.

If it’s not already apparent, Girard’s role on this team's defensive core isn’t to score goals. He’s one of the best defensemen in transition in the league. His all-around skating talent and ability to distribute the puck, expedite breakouts, and springs many chances for the Avalanche. His skating ability is again a big strength in defending the rush as it allows him to keep pace with attacking players and disrupt play using his stick, another strength of his. Girard finds his way to a handful of goals every year and will likely hit the double-digit mark eventually in his career. Sam doesn’t have a powerful wrist shot so his quick slap shot is he scores most of his goals from the point, barring they don’t get blocked.

Despite Girard’s strengths offensively and ability to defend the rush, he still does have his shortcomings as a player. His biggest weakness is defending in his own zone. There has been a stigma that he isn’t a physical player, which he is ... on the rush. If he gets into his own zone, he has a hard time in the corner or in front of the net due to his size. He can often get stuck in the zone for a long period of time because players can cycle around him and his only tool is his stick, which he can’t get close enough to the puck to use legally. With that being said, he’s not a total liability in his own zone and takes very few penalties. He has a strong sense of the game and can often read plays and break up passes, keeping him from getting hemmed in.

Sam Girard had his struggles in the 2021 postseason and 2021-22 regular season but it’s important to remember that he is still one of the better defensemen in the league as of today. It’s easy to expect him to return to the level of play he possessed during the 2021 regular season where he received votes for the Norris Trophy. He had a strong postseason this year with flashes of the things that made him so highly touted prior to the Vegas series in 2021. As long as the sternum injury he suffered in the St. Louis series doesn’t slow down his growth he could very likely have a bounce-back season next to a solid partner.

2022 Top 25 Under 25

#4: Alex Newhook

#5: Ben Meyers

#6: Oskar Olausson

#7: Justus Annunen

#8: Sean Behrens

#9: Jean-Luc Foudy

#10: Sampo Ranta

#11: Martin Kaut

#12: Alex Beaucage

#13: Mikhail Maltsev

#14: Shane Bowers

#15: Colby Ambrosio

#16: Danila Zhuravlyov

#17: Andrei Buyalsky

#18: Matthew Steinburg

#19: Nikolai Kovalenko

#20: Trent Miner

#21: Keaton Middleton

#21: Wyatt Aamodt

#23: Taylor Makar

#24: Nathan Clurman

#25: Ivan Zhigalov