Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate DNVR Sports Community!

An unexpected face is replacing Mikko Rantanen

Evan Rawal Avatar
October 24, 2019


The mystery is over.

Head Coach Jared Bednar hinted at it yesterday, but the first guy to get a shot at playing on the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog in Mikko Rantanen’s absence?

J.T. Compher.

The 24-year-old Illinois native isn’t looking to change his game too much, as he knows what makes him successful.

“When I’m playing well, I’m playing with speed,” Compher said after practice on Thursday. “I think I can bring that to this line. They already play with a ton of speed, so I’m just trying to complement them the best I can.”

Ultimately, a big reason why Compher is getting the opportunity on the top line came down to one thing: Bednar didn’t want to mess with the second line.

“I liked the way our lines played on that road trip,” Bednar said before the team flight to Vegas. “We had some success last year with Compher playing with those guys. Same thing with the power plays. I’d like to leave as much as I can the same here for a little bit and just see how long Mikko is going to be out, but we’re open to change.”

The lines up front were forced into change due to Rantanen’s lower-body injury. On Wednesday, Bednar mentioned they were going to separate Cale Makar and Nikita Zadorov as a pair. Thursday, Makar was paired with veteran Ian Cole, while Zadorov was with Ryan Graves.

I spoke to Graves after practice about what he and Zadorov can bring as a pair.

“I think we’ll complement each other,” Graves told DNVR after practice. “We’re both heavy and both play a physical style of game. I think we’ll be a good pair and I’m looking forward to it. We’re hoping to be tough for other teams to play against and be a big, heavy pair back there.”

Both Graves and Zadorov are left shots and spent practice alternating on the right side, and it seems who is playing that right side hasn’t been finalized yet.

“I don’t think anyone is too worried about it,” Graves said. “We’re just making sure we’re both comfortable over there. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter who plays that side. We’ll switch during the course of play anyway. Whoever plays it will be fine.”

A lot of defensemen struggle with the transition of playing their off side. Graves said it’s not as big of an adjustment as it would seem.

“It’s not that big of an adjustment,” the well-spoken Graves said. “You just kind of have to know your outlets before you get the puck a little bit, because your body is shifted a different way. There’s advantages to it too. I think it’s a little better in the offensive zone, your stick is in the middle of the ice as opposed to on the boards.”

Changes aside, the Avs know they have to be ready for a tough Vegas squad.

“They’re just relentless,” Graves said. “They’ve got a lot of speed and they work hard, and they stick to their system. They have four lines that roll and play hard and play the right way, fast and over top of pucks and pucks to the net. Simple hockey. That’s tough to play against when a team plays like that.”

News and Notes from Practice

  • Valeri Nichushkin will re-enter the lineup and play with Tyson Jost and Colin Wilson.
  • Philipp Grubauer will start against Vegas, and while Bednar didn’t confirm it, he did indicate they are leaning towards starting Pavel Francouz on Saturday at home against Anaheim.
  • J.T. Compher will take Rantanen’s spot on the power play as well, which gives the Avs a bit of a different look with a right shot on that side of the ice. Samuel Girard will continue to run the first PP unit as well.
  • There is one player on the Avs who is yet to suit up for a game, and that’s Vladislav Kamenev. I asked Bednar after practice about Kamenev and what they’re doing to make sure he’s ready, and he gave a very candid response. “The thing about Kammy is I didn’t love his training camp. As it went on we saw some flashes of what I wanted to see. I will say that his practice play, especially at 5 on 5 drills once we’ve kind of got into the season has been much improved from what I saw last year and even in training camp, so that’s a positive sign. I’d love to try to get him in here it’s just with the way our roster is right now, we’ve been relatively healthy and I like what a lot of guys are doing. When that changes, Kammy has to be ready, we have to keep him ready as a coaching staff and he has to work to stay ready, both mentally and physically so he can come in and help us and have a good showing when he gets in.”
  • Bednar then went on to mention they want Kamenev at center when he gets in, and that’s what makes it so tough for them to get him in with their depth. They like Jost and even Compher at center over wing so the depth is forcing Kamenev to be patient.

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?