CENTENNIAL, Colo.--The Colorado Avalanche has the third-youngest team in the NHL and is trying to take advantage of the energy its young players bring to the locker room.
"I think you watch them and how they are like sponges," captain Gabriel Landeskog said of his young teammates. "They want to learn. They are figuring out the systems and they are figuring out how to be successful in this league. I think that rubs off on a lot of guys and forces the rest of us to be the same way: to be sponges and learn and try to improve to move this group forward."
Colorado currently has six first-year players on its roster: forwards J.T. Compher, Tyson Jost and Alexander Kerfoot as well as defensemen Samuel Girard, Anton Lindholm and Andrei Mironov.
Vancouver, British Columbia, native Kerfoot is fifth on the team in scoring with 25 points and recorded his 10th goal of the season on Friday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is just the fifth rookie in Avalanche history to reach the 10-goal mark before January 1.
"They are a great group to work with," said Colorado head coach Jared Bednar. "Focused, they are coming to the rink every day working on our habits in our team meeting. They bring an enthusiasm and passion to the game that I think is really good for not only our younger guys on our team, but also for the guys who have been around for a while. I think it has kind of rejuvenated our group."
Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar gives an update on his team
The rookies have combined for 51 points (20 goals, 31 assists) this season and most have spent some time recovering from injuries. Jost was hurt for 10 games with various ailments, Lindholm missed nine contests with a broken jaw, Compher missed six matchups with a hand injury and Kerfoot watched three games with a hurt foot, but they have showed their youth and been able to bounce back.
"I think that the similarities between all of our young guys is that they have all been character guys, leaders on the teams they were at before," said Bednar. "Top producers, and they put a lot of pressure on themselves to be impact players. That's what we want. We are just trying as a coaching staff to help them get there as quickly as possible and keep reinforcing the habits and the things that we have to do as a team to try to be successful."
Left wing Compher is second in scoring on the team among first-year players with 13 points (seven goals, six assists) and registered his first overtime goal against Toronto on Friday. He is currently out of the lineup with an upper-body injury but could be back after the Avs bye week at the Dallas Stars on Jan. 13.
All five healthy rookies partook in the Avs' optional practice on New Year's Day at Family Sports Center. The session had all seven healthy defensemen take the ice, along with six forwards and both goaltenders.
Video: Gabe Landeskog on the Avs' rookies
Colorado will look to employ the vitality of its young squad as it hosts the Central Division-leading Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.
"They are the top team in our division right now, so they have set the bar," said Bednar. "Big, strong, fast. Play a hard, heavy style and there is a skill aspect to their game and make plays. What they do is they take pucks hard to the net all the time.
"Toronto [and] the Islanders have a similar mindset where they are going to put pucks to the net and bang around in front of your net a lot. I think the Jets are probably the best team we have seen at it because of their size and strength, and then also their skill level down there. So, those last couple games should help us prepare for the Jets. But you got to be a four-line team, you can't have any passengers playing these guys. Like I said, they are the top team in our division, it's a big test for us."
Bednar noted that Semyon Varlamov will start in net for Colorado.
Before practice, Bednar stated that forward Sven Andrighetto is day-to-day after being injured in Colorado's game versus the New York Islanders on Sunday.
"He is probable for tomorrow. We will see," said Bednar. "There are a couple guys going to take a skate today. He will test it either today or tomorrow, and see if he is ready to go."
Andrighetto ended up not participating in the team's session on Monday. He has six goals and 12 assists in 37 games for the Avs this season.