Following his first preseason game as the Colorado Avalanche's coach, Patrick Roy said he saw plenty of positives in his team's 2-1 loss Wednesday night to the Anaheim Ducks. He called it a "good step in the right direction" and lauded the team's 5-on-5 play. But no one earned more praise than 18-year-old defenseman Chris Bigras.
"There's nothing I didn't like [about his play]. Even when he was in trouble, he found a way to get back," Roy said on Thursday. "He's pretty amazing. I'm overwhelmed by him right now."
Bigras certainly didn't play like a teenager Wednesday night. Colorado's second-round pick (No. 32) in the 2013 NHL Draft earned a whopping 22:22 of ice time against Anaheim. Only veteran defensemen Jan Hejda and Erik Johnson posted more time on the ice. Bigras' total included 2:27 on the team's power play, which failed to score against the Ducks.
"It felt good to get the first one under your belt. There were nerves coming in for the first time. I started to feel more comfortable out there as the game went on," Bigras said following the contest. "It was faster out there than you're used to. The players you're playing with are a lot better as well, so it evens out."
Much of the focus on Colorado's offseason revolved around forward Nathan MacKinnon, who the team selected with the first pick in the draft. But Bigras' selection in the second round could also potentially go a long way toward bringing the Avalanche back to prominence.
The Ontario native has been turning heads throughout camp and could find a spot on a thin defensive corps that contributed only five goals last season. Considering the fine rookie season defenseman Tyson Barrie had in 2012-13, this young group could help the Avalanche faithful forget about how the team took MacKinnon over Seth Jones, the 6-foot-4 defenseman considered the consensus top prospect heading into the draft.
If the words of his coach are any indication, Bigras has a good chance of making his mark in Colorado sooner rather than later.
"I won't say it's a surprise, but he's playing better than what we thought [he would]," Roy said. "We knew we had something special on our hands, but no doubt in my mind he is someone that we're going to build around for the future of this organization."