Avalanche’s Devon Toews is an Underrated & Impactful Part of the Defense

Unfortunately, when Colorado Avalanche fans hear the name Devon Toews following Saturday’s game, they might remember him for his unlucky stick break in overtime. This ultimately led to the game-winning goal by the Vegas Golden Knights.

But Toews has been one of the most important parts of the Avs scoring, not only the last two games but throughout the season.  On a team filled with an embarrassment of talent, he has been one of the most overlooked names.

Roots Of His Career 

Toews’ NHL career was never a true guarantee. He was passed on twice in the NHL draft before he got selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft by the New York Islanders. But his speedy defensive presence immediately came to life in the AHL, earning him a call-up by the team in December of 2018. 

In his second NHL season, Toews put up 28 points in 68 games. He played big minutes for the Islanders in their shocking 2020 run to the Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Islanders have undergone a massive defensive turnaround in the past few years under legendary head coach Barry Trotz. Trotz also arrived with the team in 2018. 

“The way Barry structured his team and how we played team defense really kind of drives our offense. To have a turnaround like that it was incredible,” Toews said in an interview with NHL Network. “It was great to be part of a team that could defend like that and create offense at the same time.” 

New York Islanders Devon Toews
New York Islanders defenseman Devon Toews (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

While it seemed that Toews had found a home with the Islanders, he was involved in a trade to the Avs for two second-round draft picks this past offseason. He was acquired as a cost-effective replacement for defenseman Nikita Zadorov, whom the Avs traded to the Blackhawks for Brandon Saad. While Toews made great developments in New York, he had an even bigger role awaiting him in Colorado. 

Toews Impact On The Avs Defense 

The 27-year-old is already having a career year. He has been a part of the Avs’ top blue line pairing with Cale Makar since the beginning of the season. Toews had some big shoes to fill on the defense with longtime Avs defenseman Erik Johnson yet to play this season.

However, the 27-year old has already made major contributions to the team’s potent defense. Toews leads Avs defensemen with six goals on the season and is in a three-way tie atop the team’s leaderboard with a plus-17 rating. He is well on pace for the best season of his career, but why has he been so overlooked?

He might not be having quite as explosive of a season as fellow defensemen Makar or Samuel Girard, but his speed and ability to quickly read plays has helped propel the Avs’ top-ranked blue line. 

On a give-and-go pass from Nathan Mackinnon with 2:25 left in the first period of Saturday’s game, Toews blew one past Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Avalanche a 2-1 lead. While that lead would not hold up in the end, that goal ended up being a crucial one as the Avs least picked up one point on Saturday. 

From aiding the top scoring lines with a defensive presence in the offensive zone to playing long minutes for the team, Toews has arguably been one of the most impactful players on the ice. His continued success should help spell the team’s continued success in their push for that top spot in the division. He remains humble towards the success of the greater team, despite his success falling under the radar of several other great Avs teammates. This gives the team that perfect hidden piece that they can count on, something every team seeks across the league.