When Colorado Avalanche rookie J.T. Compher arrived at the rink Saturday afternoon, he was met with a promotion of sorts. The first-year pro had played most of his first five contests in the NHL in a bottom-six role alongside Blake Comeau and John Mitchell, but he would be playing on one of the Avs' top forward trios for the game against the Ottawa Senators.
That advancement in the lineup was well earned.
"He's filling in on our power play, doing a nice job. I think his all-around game is good," said head coach Jared Bednar of Compher prior to the contest. "He's moving the puck well, checking well, no glaring mistakes systematically. He's skating and helping pick up the pace of our team."
Compher began the contest centering a line with Sven Andrighetto on his left and fellow youngster Mikko Rantanen on his right. He later had Rene Bourque on his right wing and went on to play a career-high 16:18 in the outing.
He also continued to see significant time on the power play, as he was out on the ice for exactly three minutes during Colorado's five man advantages.
Video: J.T. Compher on the loss to Ottawa
Despite the opportunity, Compher and the Avalanche couldn't get much going against the Senators, a team that is eyeing an Atlantic Division title, and lost 4-2 at Pepsi Center.
"It was nice to play with Ghetto and Rants tonight. I like playing with Mitchy and Comeau, and I think our line tonight could have done a little more," said Compher, who blocked a game-high five shots. "I wish I could have done a little more with the opportunity, but I don't think we had our best game."
Every rookie goes through an adjustment period in the NHL, but they eventually figure out what it takes to compete in the top league on the planet.
Compher is going through that right now and the game appears to be slowing down for the Northbrook, Illinois, native, who at this time last year was playing in the Big Ten Tournament as captain of the University of Michigan.
"Obviously, the more reps you get, the more comfortable you feel," Compher said. "The coaching staff and players have been really awesome helping me transition, especially (assistant coach) Timmy Army helping me with the little things; D-zone, faceoff, that kind of stuff."
Colorado is not holding back on using Compher in all types of game situations, as they've had him play a center role and take faceoffs since his NHL debut on March 2 at Ottawa.
"That is the plan. We wanted to see how his development has come along from the start of training camp," Bednar said. "We liked him in camp. We thought it was better for his development to go down there and play a prominent role in San Antonio. He's done that. He's led the team down there offensively. One of the guys carrying the load down there and an impact player every night. We might as well bring him up there and throw him in a center role and see what he can do."
Compher has hovered around the 50-percent mark in draws this season, and he was once again around that number in his second career contest against the Senators. He finished 5-for-9 in the circle.
Taking faceoffs against savvy veterans that have done it at the professional level for years is one of the areas Compher is learning at how to get better at.
"Guys are obviously strong, but they also have a little more experience doing it," he said. "They've got a couple more tricks, but [Nathan MacKinnon] and [Matt Duchene] and Mitchy have really helped me be a little more comfortable at the dot. I think my percentage has shown that."
Compher is still searching for his first NHL goal and point, but those milestones should come soon as he continues to look more and more like he belongs.
Sven Andrighetto has had quite the debut with Colorado.
Acquired at the trade deadline on March 1 from the Montreal Canadiens, Andrighetto played in his fourth contest with the Avs on Saturday and picked up a point for the third consecutive outing, tying his career-long streak.
The Zurich, Switzerland, native recorded his first goal with the Avalanche, scoring on the power play with 11.1 seconds left in regulation. It was his third marker of the season and 12th of his 87-game NHL career.
Forward Joe Colborne and defenseman Cody Goloubef returned to the lineup after sitting out for the last three contests as healthy scratches.
Colborne began the game on a line with Matt Duchene and Carl Soderberg.
"We had Joe Colborne out of the lineup, and I expected him to come in hungry," head coach Jared Bednar said. "He played last week with Soderberg, and they had a pretty good game the game they played together. I wanted to try and juggle the lines around a little and see if we can get some production there."
Goloubef was paired on defense with veteran Francois Beauchemin and helped set up the Avs' first goal of the game. He expertly placed a shot to the left of the net and right on the stick of Matt Nieto, who redirected the puck into the goal to open the game's scoring. It was Goloubef's fifth helper of the season.
Center Mikhail Grigorenko and blueliner Patrick Wiercioch were scratched.
Goaltender Calvin Pickard made his third straight start in net for Colorado and finished with 27 saves.