Avalanche’s O’Connor Emerges as Reliable Contributor

Logan O’Connor might never be the best player on the Colorado Avalanche, but he’s definitely been one of the most important this season. The 2022-23 campaign has been riddled with injuries for the defending Stanley Cup champions, crippling Colorado’s depth for long stretches of the season.

The Avalanche have weathered the storm for the most part – except for the recent setback to Artturi Lehkonen – and their current winning streak has propelled them within a point of leading the Central Division – and just four points away from leading the Western Conference. While the injuries have garnered most of the limelight, O’Connor has been one of the mainstays to hold the lineup together.

O’Connor’s Durability Leads to Opportunity

Even if O’Connor’s offensive numbers might fly under the radar, he has proven to be remarkably resilient and durable. Over the last two seasons, he’s missed just one game. O’Connor has also been available where ever the Avalanche need him – and that’s been a multitude of spots this season. He’s paired up with 11 different line combinations in 2022-23. He’s mostly played alongside J.T. Compher and Andrew Cogliano, and that trio has logged the second-most minutes together on the team, behind only the top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Lehkonen.

Logan O'Connor Colorado Avalanche
Logan O’Connor, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

O’Connor has also become one of the stingiest two-way players on the Avs roster. Out of all the line combinations that have played at least 125 minutes together for the Avalanche this season, that mix of Cogliano, Compher and O’Connor leads the team with 0.79 goals against per 60 minutes. O’Connor’s impact doesn’t end there. The combination of O’Connor, Cogliano and Alex Newhook are second on the team in that metric at 0.82 goals against per 60 minutes.

Related: Colorado Avalanche’s O’Connor Creates Scoring Depth

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O’Connor’s speed and instinct have always made him a quality penalty killer, but it’s become a place where he’s really stepped up his game. He has a pair of short-handed goals this season and assisted on another. The pair of shorties are the most on the team, and he’s averaging roughly two minutes per game on the penalty kill. He’s been relied on as a penalty killer the last two seasons, but his usage all over the ice has shown his growth as a player.

O’Connor Faced Long Odds

O’Connor’s emergence as one of Colorado’s most versatile players started on a flyer by the team. After helping the University of Denver to the 2016-17 NCAA championship, O’Connor played one more season with the Pioneers before being invited to the Avalanche’s development camp. After impressing there, the undrafted forward was inked to an entry-level contract with the Avalanche as an undrafted free agent.

Logan O'Connor Colorado Avalanche
Logan O’Connor of the Colorado Avalanche celebrates after scoring his first career NHL goal against the Edmonton Oilers at the Pepsi Center on November 27, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

He played in only five games in 2018-19, failing to score a point. However, in 64 games with the Colorado Eagles, the franchise’s American Hockey League affiliate, he racked up 19 goals and 42 points that season. The promise he showed that first season got him 16 appearances in 2019-20, before getting pulled up to the NHL squad for good in 2020-21. The following season not only ended with O’Connor hoisting the Stanley Cup with his teammates, but it also established him as a bona fide contributor on one of the league’s top squads.

Related: Logan O’Connor is the Gritty Player the Avalanche Need

O’Connor has kept improving, and he’s been rewarded with contract extensions every step of the way. He was signed to a two-year extension in 2020 – and then that contract was extended for three more years just before the 2021-22 season started. Colorado has him signed to a favorable deal through 2025, at an average annual value of $1.05 million. That’s not a bad deal for a guy that’s proven he can play all over the lineup and will be in the lineup every night.

Avalanche Injuries Gave O’Connor Chance to Shine

O’Connor has played in every game for the Avalanche this season and has matched the numbers from his career-best campaign a year ago. He has eight goals and 16 assists through Colorado’s 69 games – the exact same goal and assist totals he finished with through 81 games in 2021-22. He also contributed to Colorado’s Stanley Cup run, notching a goal and three assists in 17 playoff games.

Logan O'Connor Colorado Avalanche
Logan O’Connor, Colorado Avalanche (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The 26-year-old forward’s improvement has become a blessing in disguise from all of the early-season injury woes. O’Connor is playing the most minutes of his career and is third amongst forwards on the team in plus-minus. His bottom six experience has made him one of the top penalty killers for the Avalanche, and he now has the two-way versatility for coach Jared Bednar to trust him in multiple roles.

The offensive numbers might not be as electrifying as some of his teammates, but O’Connor’s durability and impact both with the bottom six and the penalty kill cannot be overstated. Lines featuring him don’t give up goals, and he’s chewed up a lot of minutes when Colorado’s depth was razor-thin. Now that Colorado’s getting healthy again, it will be contributors like O’Connor that make the difference in the postseason.

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