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Alexander Kerfoot kinda came out of nowhere to be a really meaningful player with the Avalanche in 2017-18. It’s not like he was a total unknown – he was a star at Harvard, and had been drafted previously by an NHL team, the New Jersey Devils – but became a free agent last summer when he couldn’t come to a contract agreement with the Devils. The Avs convinced him to sign here, and they got quite a bargain in the process.
Let’s break down his rookie year in more detail and give a final grade, apart from our analytics-based one:
At 5-10, 175 pounds, the immediate knock on Kerfoot, of course, was that he would be too small to play forward in the NHL. He wouldn’t be able to play the more rugged game of the NHL like he could in college, at Hah-vahd. How wrong the cynics were.
Kerfoot made an immediately good impression at the NHL Rookie Showcase, in San Jose, and played well enough through the preseason to earn a spot on the roster. Then, he got off to a very good first couple of months. He scored a goal in an Oct. 11 win in Boston, then got two goals and an assist Oct. 19 against St. Louis. He had a really good couple of weeks in November, from the 4th-14th, with points in six of eight games. He kept right on producing at around a .75 point-per game clip entering the final couple of months, when the production started to wane a bit.
From Feb. 24 through March 20th, Kerfoot went 12 straight games without a point. He was moved off his left wing spot to No. 1 center for a while, when Nathan MacKinnon went down to injury, and he struggled somewhat. But he finished the season with 43 points (19 goals) in 79 games. That ranked 11th among all NHL rookies.
He dispelled doubts about any size/toughness issues by playing through a lot of physical stuff. Are there times when his size hurts him? The answer is probably yes, but he’s slippery with the puck, keeps his head on a swivel and isn’t afraid to go to the front of the net. He’s very good as a setup man on the power play, and in general, when he has some time and space with the puck along the half-wall. He can drive you nuts at times with his tendency to overpass, and it’s something he needs to work on.
But for a rookie nobody had ever heard of before last fall, Kerfoot has established himself as a bright spot in the Avs’ present and future.
I’m going to go with a March 20th game in Chicago, a decisive win over the Blackhawks in which Kerfoot scored two goals. That win was a big one in the Avs’ drive to the playoffs, and it broke that 12-game point drought of his.
Kerfoot has one year remaining on a contract that will pay him $925,000 this coming season. He’ll be a restricted free agent after that. So, unless the Avs decide they want to trade him, he’s not going anywhere for a while.
That late-season fade dropped his grade down a bit. He did post two goals in six playoff games, though. But I think a B is the fair and right grade for him. He really gave the Avs a lot for a rookie player. We all saw his creativity with the puck, and we saw he can handle life in the big boy game.
I’m sure he’ll work on becoming a bit stronger, maybe packing on some muscle in the upper body, and I think the key for him will be to just keep learning. He needs to really find a couple of linemates he can bond with better. On paper, that should be J.T. Compher and Tyson Jost, but we saw that trio struggle a bit more than expected when they were together.
Regardless, he’s just a nice piece to have moving forward.