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Rookie Rewind: Samuel Girard

The defenseman was acquired by Colorado on Nov. 5

by Nick Hecht / is profiling players who just completed their rookie seasons with the organization. This installment takes a look at defenseman Samuel Girard.

Samuel Girard's 2017-18 season started as his chance compete for a roster spot on the team that drafted him, the Nashville Predators.

The defenseman, selected in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft, bursted onto the scene with an assist in his first game with Nashville against the Philadelphia Flyers, and he recorded a goal against the Detroit Red Wings in his second NHL contest. A few weeks later, Girard was traded to the Avalanche in a three-team deal that sent Matt Duchene to the Ottawa Senators and Kyle Turris to Nashville.

"It was a big day, a busy day. I was in L.A. with Nashville and sleeping in my bed, and I woke up to three missed calls and three texts from my agent. I called him back, and he told me I was traded. He told me I needed to go to Sweden," Girard told about his move to Colorado. "So I packed my luggage, my hockey bag, everything. My flight was at 9 p.m., and I arrived at the airport around 7 p.m., so it was a busy day."

Girard joined the Avalanche in Sweden to play against the Senators in the 2017 NHL SAP Global Series and the young rear guard quickly impressed. He notched an assist in his first game with Colorado showing his natural ability and vision in the offensive end.

"I thought he was outstanding to be honest with you," Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said of Girard's first game with the team. "Just watching him play, he's constantly moving his feet. He's hard to hit. He has good skating ability. He gets back to pucks hard, and I thought his decision making was great. He's pretty sure of the puck. In the offensive zone, it was the same way. He was moving the puck from the offensive zone blue line, bringing it to the net, making plays, and he's got a shot mentality too."

That mindset helped Girard earn 23 points (four goals, 19 assists) in his first NHL season, with his first goal for the Avalanche coming Feb. 1 in an overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers.

However, the Roberval, Quebec, native's most memorable goal for Avs' fans came in the Avalanche's final regular season game against the St. Louis Blues. With the winning team going on to the playoffs, Girard scored the game's first goal with a slapshot at the end of the opening period to help the Avalanche clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff berth.

Video: STL@COL: Girard tees up slapper to beat Allen

Colorado faced Nashville in the first round of the playoffs and Girard played well in Game 1 with 5 shot attempts and a blocked shot in 22:07 minutes. He missed Games 2-4 with an upper-body injury, the first game-action he missed since joining the Avs, but returned for the final two games of the series.

In his rookie season, Girard showcased his potential through his abilities and hockey sense. He was the youngest blueliner to ever play for the Avalanche at 19 years, 182 days, and became the fourth Colorado rookie defenseman to reach 20 points since the franchise relocated to Denver, joining John-Michael Liles (34 in 2003-04), Kevin Shattenkirk (26 in 2010-11) and Ryan Wilson (21 in 2009-10).

"Throughout the course of the season, he has really blossomed and you really see his personality on a daily basis," said Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog of Girard's first NHL campaign. "He is a quiet guy but a lot of fun to be around, and he has really impressed me by his growth on the ice."

The sky is the limit for Girard as he matures and gets more comfortable with the Avalanche system and the pace of the NHL.

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