Going into the season, Colorado Avalanche forward Logan O’Connor was looked at as being a potential impact forechecker on the very back end of the Avs’ deep offensive attack. Even that looked far-fetched, as most probably saw him spending most if not all of the season with the Avs’ minor league affiliate, the Colorado Eagles. Surprisingly, the first prediction is the one emerging with more truth than the latter, but even better so far.
O’Connor’s Performance So Far
O’Connor has scored two goals in just three games played with the Avs this season, including the first goal on Tuesday night off a backhander that took a lucky bounce off Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot into the net. This comes after he scored another game-opening goal in Saturday’s 5-1 series-opening win against the Wild.
The Avs recently called up O’Connor to the team’s taxi squad amid injuries to three key offensive players, including forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Matt Calvert, but more importantly, their leading scorer and one of the game’s best, centerman Nathan MacKinnon.
Key losses like this, which are bound to happen in the hockey season, is when a team like the Avs need to exploit their depth to separate themselves as an elite team. They did just that on Tuesday night, as each of their two goals came from their third and fourth lines. O’Connor played on the fourth line alongside Kiefer Sherwood and centerman Sheldon Dries, who was making his season debut. Like O’Connor, Dries was also anticipated to be with the Colorado Eagles or a part of the team’s taxi squad throughout the season. But with several injuries, the two have gotten their chance to prove their worth on the fourth line.
“I thought the bottom-six guys did a great job,” said head coach Jared Bednar. “O’Connor, Sherwood, Dries played hard, they gave us a goal they draw us another penalty.”
It certainly helps that several of the players, including O’Connor and Dries, had played together prior to Tuesday’s game.
“We’ve definitely climbed through the ranks together, spending time last season in the American League with the Eagles,” said O’Connor on his time with Dries in the minors. “It’s pretty cool to see guys that you went to war with last year and now we’ve elevated our games to put on the Avs sweaters. It says a lot about the organization down in Loveland and what they’ve done to develop players.”
Good chemistry among linemates is a must, and that chemistry between O’Connor and Dires on the fourth line might help the Avs get more production from them.
How O’Connor Views His Role
O’Connor understands that his line might not be the top-scoring one, but they are there as an aggressor line that can be a make or break factor for the Avs’ success. “You’re not gonna see too many pretty goals from our line, we’re just trying to muck it up a bit,” said O’Connor. “We’ll leave those pretty ones to Rantanen and Cale and whatnot. Just play to our identity.”
With Thursday’s game against the Wild postponed, the Avs will have more time to figure out how to use O’Connor. So far in his time on ice, he has put up a plus/minus of two and a 33.3% shooting percentage. While O’Connor has not played as many minutes on ice as many of his teammates, his performance so far since his call-up has certainly earned the University of Denver alumni the role of a new regular spot on the Avs roster. At least this looks like the case for now, with MacKinnon’s return uncertain.