With the Matt Duchene trade finally completed, the Colorado Avalanche know they’ve lost a vital piece of their offense. The void that needs to be filled isn’t only for offensive production, but in the overall ability to play the center position, as Duchene had been an anchor in the Avalanche system for a long time.

During the current youth movement, the Avs already had guys in place to potentially fill Duchene’s shoes in J.T. Compher and Tyson Jost, but their youth and inexperience still left some uncertainty. Throughout the offseason, Colorado continued to find pieces that could possibly fill the impending hole at center, and in came this rookie-free-agent addition Alex Kerfoot.

“It’s a big responsibility, obviously, with ‘Dutchy’ being gone,” Kerfoot told Avalanche TV. “I think that no one is going to step in and do his role. We’ve got to kind of do it as a committee.”

In 14 games so far this season, Kerfoot has managed five goals and four assists, so he’s adapted to the NHL quite well in his young professional career. His offensive capabilities and overall knowledge of playing center have Kerfoot already playing multiple roles for the Avalanche in this young NHL season. That said, he isn’t completely satisfied with the start to his career.

“I think that I’ve been up-and-down at times,” Kerfoot said, before the Avalanche left for their current road trip. “I just need to focus on being consistent every game and playing the same way — the right way — every game. That comes with bringing the right attitude to the rink everyday and working as hard as I can, and getting in hard on the forecheck and stuff like that.”

So far this season, Kerfoot has logged an average of 12:57 time-on-ice per game, the fifth lowest on the current roster. While it’s not ideal for Kerfoot, he understands playing time is earned, and his play thus far has slowly granted him more responsibility.

“If the coaches give me some more ice time, I know that I’ve got to do a better job with it. I’ve got to be more responsible defensively, I’ve got to be working hard every shift and can’t take really any seconds off.”

“If you’re not playing 20 minutes a night, it can be easy to fall out of the flow of the game at times, and I just have to be ready on the bench as much as I can and be able to compete every shift.”

Kerfoot has been slowly, but surely, getting more opportunities and more ice-time to prove himself. Now that Duchene is with Ottawa, Kerfoot’s responsibility will continue to increase. In losing Duchene, Colorado looks to replace an average on 15:46 time-on-ice per game, 2:22 of which on the power play.

“It has been great with the coaches, [they’ve] put me in the position to succeed. Getting some power-play time now is great. I know that that’s a big responsibility. I just wanted to do well with that and try to contribute and work hard every day, but it’s something that I’m comfortable, with so I’m happy I’m playing there.”

At 24 years old, Alex Kerfoot is older than most rookies, meaning he has more hockey experience and a greater hockey sense than other young guys on the Avalanche. However, there are still certain areas of the NHL game that Kerfoot is getting used to.

“In college, guys are kind of running around a little bit, but guys are a lot stronger on pucks here — in corners, in battles — it is harder to win stick battles, puck battles and that’s something I had to adapt to; try and find ways to win those battles.”

“Like I said, the guys in this league are so good that — if you give them any openings, any turnovers off the rush, or any area to work in the D-zone — they can take advantage of it. I’ve just got to be really responsible defensively if I’m playing against some of those players.”

Kerfoot has already emerged as one of the better faceoff-takers on the team, and as a pass-first guy, he can help any one of his teammates light the lamp. While getting the fifth-least ice-time on the team, he currently sits sixth on the team in points. He has already played top-six minutes this season, but now it’s time for him to return to center, his natural position.

It is hard for a rookie to jump in to a top-six role and succeed, but luckily for Colorado, the odds of filling that role are high — given that they have three rookies to choose from. Even this early in his young career, Alex Kerfoot is ready for a top-six center role. While there will be some bumps and bruises along the way as he continues to gain experience and develop his game, that’s basically the plan for Colorado’s entire roster this season.