Colorado Avalanche center J.T. Compher, arguably the key piece in the infamous Ryan O’Reilly trade, is about to embark on his first full NHL season and the hopes for him are high.

“I do have high expectations for him,” coach Jared Bednar said of his 22-year-old center. “He’s had a great career to get to this point, to get himself to the NHL. He’s been a prominent player on every team he’s played on, and he was again last year in San Antonio.”

Playing three years at the University of Michigan and then one year professionally at both the AHL and NHL levels, Compher has more experience than most rookies. However, his three goals and two assists in his 21-game stint with Colorado last season proved he still needed to acclimate to the NHL level.

Coach Bednar believes the acclimation process is over, and that Compher is ready for an important role with the Avalanche.

“For me, he is equally as good defensively and we would like to have seen a little bit more offensive production out of him last year in the games he played, but as he started to get comfortable, you saw him sort of blossom last year,” Bednar said.

“I know he’s working on the speed of his game, and I know that’s going to come with time. If he keeps working the way he does, I think he’ll be a real good 200-foot player for us.”

Compher has been impressive so far and has stood out in every preseason activity he has participated in. He credits his familiarity with the professional level for his strong performance, noting, “Having the experience from last year helps a lot, and I want to just go out there and feel comfortable. I think I have felt a lot more comfortable this camp.”

According to Compher, the competitive fire that burns within him is one of his primary contributions to the Avalanche, and it’s what will help him become the player Bednar envisioned.

“Doing what I do best; just compete all over the ice. I know everyone in this room wants to win. I’m a competitive guy. I want to win.” Compher said. “We need to make sure we have that mindset that when we come to the rink — we are there to win a hockey game. We are going to do whatever it takes, and that’s what I try to bring every day.”

“Compete level is something they have stressed since we got (to camp), even last year. It’s just trying to be competitive in all aspects of the game and wanting to win every one-on-one battle you’re in; net-front battles, stuff like that. I think the young guys know that we need to bring that to the table.”

Along with the competitive spirit with which Compher plays, the University of Michigan graduate emphasized the importance of face-offs in his game, and in the NHL as a whole, considering the league’s recently implemented face-off policy.

“Face-offs are so important to your team; so many guys’ careers are based off of winning face-offs and being good face-off guys. For me, it’s just trying to get whatever leverage in there that I can,” Compher stated. “You’ve got to work on your face-offs as much as possible, especially as a young guy in this league; there are a lot of really strong guys.”

One of those “strong guys” that Compher mentions is still-current teammate Matt Duchene, someone he frequently reaches out to for face-off advice.

“When we were on the same line — he was taking the left side, I was taking the right side — he was really helpful,” Compher explained. “He knows [the] guys in this league — what their tendencies are —  and he definitely passed down a lot of that knowledge to me.”

Between the AHL and NHL, Compher played a combined total of 62 games as a pro last season. He says he is not only ready to take his game to the next level from an X’s and O’s standpoint, but from a physical one as well. He is ready for the toll an 82-game season will have on his body.

“Yeah, I do think I’m ready… I had [an] injury when I was in San Antonio, but I was able to feel good down the stretch, keep my body in good shape and I learned a lot — not only from guys down there, but guys up here — making sure you’re taking care of your body so you can be ready to go every night, every other night, whenever you play.”

Compher’s stood out in camp and the preseason among his Avalanche teammates. He hasn’t been in professional hockey long, but has already taken tremendous strides in his understanding of the professional level.

Avalanche fans have awaited Compher’s arrival and everyday impact on the Colorado roster for several years now. Due to his familiarity with the NHL, combined with the skill and attributes he already possesses, that time has come. He has developed his game tremendously and adapted to the NHL level from both a physical and mental standpoint. Much like coach Jared Bednar, fans have high expectations for Compher — and he looks ready to deliver.