Colorado Avalanche left wing J.T. Compher came up big for the squad during the 2018-19 season, finishing fifth on the team with 16 goals and tying for the team lead with three short-handed tallies.
The forward surpassed his rookie season totals in goals, assists (16) and points (32), and he became the first Avalanche player to record at least three short-handed, power-play and game-winning tallies in a campaign since Joe Sakic 2000-01.
The 6-foot, 193-pound winger had a slow start to the season after sustaining a head injury on Oct 13 and spending the next six weeks on injured reserve. He came back stronger than ever when he did return to the ice, demonstrating his knack for scoring goals while the team is down a man.
He scored twice on the same penalty kill in his first game back on Nov. 23 at the Arizona Coyotes, tying the franchise record for short-handed goals in a game (fourth time) and period (second time). It was also the fastest two short-handed markers ever (1:25) in franchise history, and he cemented his place in the Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques annals by becoming the first player to score twice on the same opponent power-play chance.
Video: COL@ARI: Compher scores twice on same penalty kill
"I've just tried to focus on playing confident and playing the right way, getting my feet wet after being out for a month and a half," Compher said after the second game back from the injury. "We did some good work when I was out, especially the last two weeks getting the conditioning and making sure I felt confident going into the games. It has paid off."
The 24-year-old hit his first major career milestone on Nov. 30 when he skated in his 100th NHL contest in a home game against the St. Louis Blues.
"Obviously it's been fun the last few years being here, especially with this group," he said on hitting the century mark in games played. "We have a lot of good guys and it makes it fun for me to come to work every day. For me, it is just trying to be consistent--I have worked on that a lot over the last year."
Compher also put together a memorable performance in front of family and friends during the Avs' 5-3 win at the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 22.
The Northbrook, Illinois, native was the star of the contest in his hometown by recording his first career three-point game (two goals, one assist) and third-ever multi-goal outing. His two tallies on the night brought him to 14 on the season, officially topping his record of 13 from his full rookie campaign in 2017-18.
"I am from about a half hour north of this city and grew up coming to Hawks games; I was a big Hawks fan until I got drafted," Compher said on beating some of his childhood idols. "It is great, huge win for our team in the playoff hunt. We played a good 60 minutes, and it's always special to get a win and get a goal in front of my family and friends here."
Video: COL@CHI: Compher nets second goal on breakaway
During the postseason, Compher continued his knack for the back of the net by registering four goals and adding two assists in 12 contests.
In a do-or-die Game 6 against the San Jose Sharks in the second round of the playoffs on May 7, the forward had his most dazzling offensive display yet, recording three points to seal the victory and push the series to a Game 7. Compher scored twice and added an assist to record his first career multi-goal and multi-point outing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Avs went on to win 4-3 in overtime at Pepsi Center.
"He had a great game, really great game from him. I thought that was his best of the playoffs," said Colorado head coach Jared Bednar of the young forward. "Physical right away, skating, he was on the hunt, puck pursuit and puck pressure all over the ice. He was good defensively and when he got his opportunities--part of the reason why he got his opportunities is he was going to the net hard--when he had a couple chances, he made a couple plays and finished them off."
Just the 10th player in Avalanche/Nordiques history to record three or more points in an elimination game, Compher was the first since Alex Tanguay's hero performance with two goals and an assist in Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Final versus the New Jersey Devils. He finished the outing with a plus-3 rating, tied for the highest on the Avalanche during the 2019 playoffs, and ranked second on the team with four hits, a playoff career high.
Video: SJS@COL, Gm6: Compher pots one-timer through traffic
His first point of the night was an assist on a tally by Tyson Jost--his linemate on the ice and roommate at home.
"He was skating really well. He just had one of those games where he's buzzing, and he made a great play on my goal there, a great pass," Jost said of Compher after the heroic game. "We were both using our speed and then we caught them on the 2-on-1 there, and he slid it over. He's a great player and we knew he was all that. I'm super happy for him--that's my roommate. I'm really proud of him."
Coming off a strong season, he signed a four-year contract extension on July 17 that ensured his spot with the Avalanche through 2022-23. Now, with a contract taken care of, Compher looks to continue to boost the Avalanche for years to come.