One of the bigger pieces in the Ryan O’Reilly trade, J.T. Compher is currently serving as captain in his junior season at Michigan. A product of the USA National Team development program, he was selected four times for the United States junior teams (2 U-17, 1 U-18, and one World Juniors). While not having a ton of size (he stands around 5 feet 10 inches, 184 pounds), Compher plays a complete game, fighting hard in every zone and relentless on the forecheck. Most likely not a top-six forward in the NHL, Compher’s 200-foot game and ability to provide secondary scoring from a bottom-six role will certainly prove valuable to the Colorado Avalanche in the future.
With four selections to the US team, Compher has a bit of a pedigree despite still being under 21. He has two silver medals and one gold medal from his first three international tournaments. In his first tournament at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge, Compher led the team in scoring with four goals and seven assists in just six games. When the US took gold with him on the team for the 2012 IIHF World U18 Championships, he was one of only three to return to the team the next year when the US took silver.
It is slightly troubling to look at his numbers in international play, which have decreased up until the 2015 World Junior Championship, where he had zero points in five games. That’s not ideal, but Compher has played well at the collegiate level. Considering that, plus the fact that he’ll likely slot in as a third or fourth line player, and his offensive output becomes less of an issue when compared with his overall game.
University of Michigan
Compher’s freshman year at Michigan saw him lead all freshman in the Big Ten Conference with 11 goals and 20 assists, earning him a selection to the 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the year, as well as being selected to the conference All-Freshman Team and the All-Big Ten Second Team. Now the captain in his junior season, Compher is having one of his best years statically, with 14 goals and 46 assists in 36 games, nearly double his previous best. He plays top line minutes for the Wolverines and on both the power play and the penalty kill. Here he is using his tenacity to force a turnover, which lead to Compher scoring a short-handed goal.
It should be noted that this surge in points came about with Compher playing on a line with phenom freshman Kyle Connor, so temper expectations of his offensive output once he reaches the NHL.
Compher’s skating ability is rated to be his greatest strength, something he uses to relentlessly hound opponents in all three zones. Likely more of a bottom-six player, Compher’s ability to mesh well with the likes of Connor and Tyler Motte adds an element of cohesion to his game that might allow him to get some time on the scoring lines, especially if there’s an injury. Versatility like Compher’s is rare in the NHL, so only time will tell on how he pans out.