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Helleson content on rounding out game before joining Avalanche

Defenseman prospect aims to increase offense at Boston College next season

by Rick Sadowski / NHL.com Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Drew Helleson isn't used to putting up big offensive numbers as a stay-at-home defenseman, but the 18-year-old Colorado Avalanche prospect will look to improve those statistics as a freshman at Boston College this season.

Selected by the Avalanche in the second round (No. 47) of the 2019 NHL Draft, Helleson wasn't leaned on for offense as a member of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, which had eight players taken in the first round of the 2019 draft, including center Jack Hughes, chosen No. 1 by the New Jersey Devils.

Helleson had 23 points (five goals 18 assists) in 64 games with the NTDP and had three assists in seven games for the United States in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship, leaving the scoring for his higher-profile teammates.

 

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"I was just trying to help the team win," Helleson said during Avalanche development camp in June. "If that meant being the shutdown guy, then that's what I was going to do. I'm a team guy, I want to win, so if that's what I need to do, that's what I'll do.

"Practicing against guys like Jack and [forward Alex] Turcotte (No. 5 pick in 2019 draft) and [forward Trevor] Zegras (No. 9 pick, 2019 draft), those guys are unreal talents. Playing against those guys every day for two years would help anyone, especially defensemen trying to learn their role. I think for everyone, [practices] were more difficult than the games. I mean, we had a super competitive team, a talented team. Practices were super high tempo, very competitive."

Helleson showed some offensive flair in 2017-18 when he had 40 points (five goals, 35 assists) in 61 games with the NTDP, but he concentrated more on defense last season.

Video: Drew Helleson talks about his first development camp

"They played a run-and-gun style, so they needed him on the back end," Avalanche director of amateur scouting Alan Hepple said. "He got better by practicing against those offensive guys every day. We asked people who's the most underrated guy on the team, that you would hate playing against, and it was Drew Helleson.

"He's big (6-foot-3, 193 pounds), a good skater, he leans on people, has some chippiness to his game. Not offensive, but a puck mover, a puck-management guy. He got better as the year went on. He'll be a guy that complements one of the skill guys. I don't think he's going to put up huge numbers, but he's got some size, he's got some reach, he plays physical."

Helleson aims to play a more offensive role at Boston College without sacrificing his defense. 

"I want to showcase that a little bit more, jump into the rush a little more, create a little more, contribute as much as I can," he said. "Hopefully being more offensive I can help B.C. win.

"I'm in no rush [to play in the NHL]. I want to get there, but I want to be ready. Whether it takes four years at B.C. or one year, it doesn't really matter to me. I just want to physically mature; I'm a tall guy, so I can grow into my body a little bit, hopefully put on a little weight."

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