Former Pioneer O’Connor challenges for role on Avalanche

Credit: http://www.denverpioneers.com/sports/m-hockey/recaps/021717aaa.html

With training camp coming to a close for the Colorado Avalanche, it seems as if the storybook tale of former Denver Pioneers forward Logan O’Connor continues, as he looks to impress Colorado Avalanche and Colorado Eagles management.

After coming off of a 21-point season with the Pioneers in his junior year, O’Connor attended the Colorado Avalanche rookie camp with the hopes of making an impression on the Avalanche management — and boy, did he ever.

Jumping on the opportunity to make an impression in front of the Avalanche management, O’Connor tallied a hat trick in the game to help Team White come away with the victory over Team Burgundy in the inter-squad prospect scrimmage.

“With rookie camp, I just went in with the mindset of trying to make the team out of rookie camp by making the biggest impact,” O’Connor said. “Obviously, I was an undrafted player, so as coming in as a free agent, I really did not have anything to lose – so I wanted to just leave it all out there and hopefully impress them.”

With the contract in his hands, O’Connor officially decided to leave the Pioneers heading into his senior year in favor of beginning his professional hockey career with the Avalanche organization.

“I was actually with my family up at our lake when it all happened,” O’Connor said. “After rookie camp, nothing was really mentioned of it, and then a couple of weeks later they brought it to my attention that they were willing to offer a contract. So right away I wasn’t exactly expecting it, but I was up at the lake with my family and I was able to mull it over with them and talk to a bunch of people about the opportunity, and eventually go from there with signing the contract. It was a pretty ecstatic feeling to make that happen.”

Of course, training camp is a completely different beast.

“Leading into training camp, obviously a lot transpired over the summer, so I had to have big offseason to get ready for the pro level for the first time playing with bigger and stronger guys,” O’Connor said. “It is a lot different from college, where there is a couple years gap now as there are grown men out there. So that’s been the biggest thing in the offseason; just to focus on that and sort of get the worries out of the way early here.”

“Vegas [playing in the rookie showcase] was nice to get settled in with that, and then a couple of practices here before jumping into real exhibition games.”

Spending the majority of training camp on a line with newly acquired and NHL veteran Matt Calvert and returning Avalanche forward J.T. Compher, O’Connor was able to get a good taste of what to expect if he wants to nab a spot on the Avalanche roster in the future.

“It has been huge having their experience on a line. Obviously, Calvert has been playing in the league for like eight years, and Compher last year. So you get both sides of it. Compher knows how challenging it is as a rookie, and then Calvert, who has experience, under his belt and can guide us through the whole process,” O’Connor said. “They are very open to feedback and me asking questions and giving good criticism back and helpful so far, so I am really happy that I have had the opportunity with those guys.”

Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar tested O’Connor and Calvert in another way, putting them as a pairing on the penalty kill as they went up against the Avalanche top power-play unit at training camp early this week.

Along with being able to impress the coaching staff, O’Connor continues to earn praise from his potential Avalanche teammates.

“I skated with him in the summer skates the two weeks before camp, and definitely noticed him there,” Calvert stated. “And then obviously I heard he did good at the rookie tourney [rookie tournament in Vegas], and he has been skating with me and ‘Comphs’ [Compher] ever since. He flies and he has a great shot, and seems like he has it all. So if he can just keep working hard, he might have a good shot this year.”

Following a hard-fought training camp, O’Connor made his debut for the Avalanche in the first preseason game of the season against the Vegas Golden Knights, where his line with Calvert and Compher started as the second forward line for the Avalanche.

“It is an awesome atmosphere. Obviously, playing at the rink [Pepsi Center] is pretty amazing, and the fans are die-hard – and have been for many years – so it was nice to play in front of them, and hopefully next time, we can get a better result.”

Despite the rough 5-1 preseason loss against the Vegas Golden Knights, it seemed as if the line of Calvert, Compher, and O’Connor were able to come close to multiple scoring chances throughout the night.

Due to their hard work, they earned more ice time and eventually helped in scoring the lone goal for the Avalanche.

From all of his hard work, he has gained the recognition and positive feedback from Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar.

“Logan O’Connor, for me, skates hard, moves the puck, and everything that he does is at a good pace, if not at top speed. He is a great skater, if not an elite skater. He is tenacious, and he is hard on pucks and he knows how to check and play the right way defensively,” Bednar said, “He is a guy who we are going to watch closely, because to me, he is in the fight to make our team.”

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