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Avalanche's J.T. Compher accustomed to leading role

Colorado forward prospect was Hobey Baker finalist, captain at Michigan

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Forward J.T. Compher won't dazzle opponents with extraordinary skill, but the Colorado Avalanche prospect has the kind of playmaking ability and compete level that eventually should earn him a place in the NHL.

Compher, 21, left the University of Michigan in April following his junior season to sign a three-year, entry-level contract with the Avalanche.

A team captain and Hobey Baker Award finalist, Compher had 16 goals and an NCAA-leading 47 assists in 38 games for the Big Ten champions, who lost to eventual national champion North Dakota in a Midwest Regional final.

"I thought that developmentally I was ready," said Compher, a 6-foot, 182-pound left wing. "I thought I was ready to challenge myself at the next level. I think I improved on a lot of the things that I wanted to improve on at school. I love Michigan and I loved my three years playing there. I'm going to miss it, but I think I'm ready for this next step, to play pro hockey."

Compher played on the Wolverines' high-scoring "CCM Line" with Kyle Connor and Tyler Motte, a trio that combined for 83 goals and 107 assists. Connor signed with the Winnipeg Jets, Motte with the Chicago Blackhawks.

"We had a lot of chemistry, and you don't always find that," said Compher, who is from Northbrook, Ill. "It was special playing on that line. It was an awesome experience and probably my favorite year. I loved my time there and I'm really thankful for everything that program did for me."

Video: Avs prospect JT Compher talks about turning pro

Compher enjoyed a breakout season as a junior after totaling 55 points (23 goals, 32 assists) in 69 games his first two seasons. The Big Ten Rookie of the Year in 2013-14, Compher ended his college career as a second team West All-American.

Compher also played for Team USA in the IIHF World Championships in Russia, where he had one goal and two assists in 10 games, used mostly in a defensive role.

"It was a real cool experience and I had a lot of fun," he said. "I'd been to Russia before with the U.S. National Program, but to play at that level was a great experience. I learned a lot about my game and what I have to do for this year. It was a huge step for me to play at that level."

Compher was a second-round pick (No. 35) of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2013 NHL Draft. The Avalanche acquired his rights in a five-player trade with the Sabres on June 26, 2015. Colorado also received forward Mikhail Grigorenko, defenseman Nikita Zadorov and a 2015 second-round selection for forwards Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn.

"I'm happy to be here, happy to be signed and to be part of this organization," Compher said. "They've been great to me, very hands-on, and I think it's going to be a good fit."

Compher is hopeful his versatility will help him advance to the NHL rather quickly. He's an excellent passer, is willing to go to the hard areas to score, and he can be an agitating presence. He's been captain numerous times, evidence of his leadership skills.

"I think I'm a competitive player, a two-way guy," he said. "I can play wing, I can play center, I can be an offensive guy, I can be a defensive guy. I think that's going to help me transition to pro and to try and find a spot on the team.

"Having been captain, I think it's just the way I try to handle myself, being professional and being a guy that others can look up to. It just comes down to work ethic and wanting to win."

Compher said he needs to work on his quickness and puck possession, which he'll continue to do before heading to training camp.

"Right now, I'm just focusing on improving myself -- my game, my skating, doing the little things that the [Avalanche] want me to do to be a better player," he said. "When I get to training camp in the fall, just work hard and compete and see where the chips fall.

"You just want to learn as much as possible and leave a good impression and work hard and improve your game, that's the main thing. You want to further your development."

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