After a quick stint in the AHL to recover, Tyson Jost has been recalled to the Colorado Avalanche, and coach Jared Bednar has placed him on a line with fellow rookies J.T. Compher and Alex Kerfoot. A young, energetic group that embodies the current ‘youth movement’ within the organization, the trio should be a treat for Avs fans to watch, as they are all known for their up-tempo style of play.
“We are young, we are fast, we all think the game really well,” Jost said, following his first practice back with the team. “It’s fun to play with players like that, who think the game (the same). We were snapping the puck around pretty good today. We all live together too, so we have some really good chemistry going on.”
With the addition of Chris Bigras, Jost, Compher and Kerfoot spend a lot of off-ice time together through their living situation, but their chemistry is rooted a little deeper as there is a lot they have in common. All of them are rookies from the NCAA, all of them have worn a captain’s ‘C’ on their sweater at some point and all of them are natural centers. These similarities and the time the three spend together helps build camaraderie within the line combo, but it also allows the players to maintain a certain understanding of one another while on the ice.
“All three of us are centers, but in today’s game, other than taking the face-off, there is not really a set center. The first four back usually takes low, and it’s it’s always easier to play like that, so we are versatile and we can play all three positions there.”
Teams in the NHL today play a more advanced defensive scheme than traditional hockey, where positions aren’t necessarily clarified in the defensive end until all players have entered the zone off of transition. In order to do so effectively, an individual player must have an understanding and comfort in all positions, something that is more likely to be an attribute from a natural center.
Not only is the Jost-Compher-Kerfoot combination a line full of centers, but the Avalanche are, in fact, a team full of players who can play the position. Kerfoot sites this to be one of Colorado’s best qualities.
“Nowadays, pretty much the first guy back into the D-zone just plays low, so if you have more guys who are comfortable in that position then it makes it easier on the rest of your linemates,” Kerfoot said. “We are fortunate that we have a lot of centers on this team who are comfortable playing down low, and I think that helps us out as a team.”
The defensive zone is not going to be the only place this line shines, seeing as how all three players have a knack for the offensive side of the game.
Compher, who has three goals and three assists in sixteen games played, is expecting his new line combination to be a legitimate offensive threat for the Avalanche, sparking his and Jost’s offensive production.
“I am playing with two really gifted offensive players. Jost is really good down low, especially protecting the puck and holding onto it. They both have really good vision,” Compher said. “For me — a little bit more of a shooter sometimes — they are able to find me in spots that I can get scoring chances.”
The combination of Jost, Compher and Kerfoot has quickly built a strong rapport, but the group’s strength lies in their ability to think the game similarly and be on the same page from an X’s and O’s standpoint. Having a mutual understanding of one another, both on and off the ice, will lay the foundation for a cohesive and productive line combination. However, point production and execution of defensive structure will be the only measuring stick when it comes time for coach Bednar to assess and potentially readjust the lines.
Their understanding of the team’s defensive strategies and how to play center will, in theory, help the Jost-Compher-Kerfoot line make their mark defensively. Providing an offensive spark will be the deciding factor on whether or not the Avalanche keep this line of the future together.