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O'Reilly leading Avs offensively and defensively

by Mike G. Morreale
Rookie Gabriel Landeskog isn't the only player from the Colorado Avalanche proving himself worthy of postseason accolades.

Perhaps first-line center Ryan O'Reilly should be considered in the mix with those unique skaters capable of shutting down opposing players while providing occasional strikes on offense.

Hey Ryan, do you consider yourself worthy of the Selke Trophy as the League's best defensive forward?

"Wow, to even be considered for an award like that would be an absolute honor," O'Reilly told "I always approach a game from my own end out and always want to work hard defensively because only then do you become more confident in the other areas of your game."

Advice for top prospects

It wasn't too long ago that center Ryan O'Reilly was going through the same thing all the top prospects eligible for the 2012 NHL Draft are now experiencing in preparation for the big day in June.

O'Reilly, drafted in the second round (No. 33) by the Avalanche in 2009, recalls his draft year as if it were yesterday and offered some advice for the prospects getting ready for the NHL Scouting Combine in May.

"I think when you look at it, kids maybe focus too much on the off-ice perspective and while it is an important thing, if you care about the on-ice enough, those things off the ice will come naturally," O'Reilly told

He laughed when reminded of the impressive showing he had at the 2009 Combine -- his 18 repetitions at 150 pounds on the bench press tied for the most among the 94 players who tested.

"You want to do that extra stuff, but need to remember you've never really arrived ... you're always trying to get somewhere better and always have to keep a beginner's mind. No matter what the situation, go out and do it and learn and get better and never be satisfied," O'Reilly said.

-- Mike Morreale
And confidence is something O'Reilly certainly has exuded in 2011-12.

"He's shown this year that he's got a lot more to his game than being the solid two-way centerman that he's been the past two years," Landeskog told "He's really shown everyone that he wants to be that first centerman, he wants to really contribute and play in all situations, and he's showing everyone that he's more than capable of doing that and leading this team."

The 21-year-old O'Reilly leads the Avalanche, who finish off a three-game road trip Saturday against the New York Rangers, with a career-high 52 points (17 goals, 35 assists) in 72 games. He not only ranks first on the team in assists, but in takeaways with 89. He has 4 power-play goals and 3 game-winning goals. He has just 12 penalty minutes while averaging over 19 minutes a game. He's won over 53 percent of his faceoffs, and has even blocked 45 shots.

"I think the key for me this year has been playing with such great linemates," O'Reilly said. "Playing with Landeskog, and before Steve Downie it was Milan Hejduk. Playing with those guys is a recipe for success. They do all those little things right, and as a center you try and get them the puck and go to the net. The coaching staff has given me an opportunity on the power play, too."

Landeskog, who is in the running for the Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year, feels O'Reilly has played a big part in his initial season.

"We're two guys that go and work hard and try to out-work our opponents," Landeskog said. "We've been fortunate enough to play with each other ever since training camp, except for two games. It's been a real treat and it's been a lot of fun. We're two young guys and we don't have anything to lose. Just going to go out there and have a blast with it and we'll see where it takes us."

"Coach (Joe) Sacco is an honest coach and demands hard work, which is the way it should be," O'Reilly said. "Milan (Hejduk, team captain) has been such a great leader. He's so calm, focused, consistent and intelligent out there. He makes those little plays that many guys can't make. It's those types of plays that open up the ice and create bigger plays in the other direction."

By the sounds of things, O'Reilly might someday make a fine captain.

Landeskog said he considers O'Reilly a mentor despite the fact he is just two years older. Like Landeskog, O'Reilly entered the NHL as an 18-year-old after a successful career in the Ontario Hockey League.

"He's been through pretty much the same thing I've been through," Landeskog said. "Just how mature he is and how he handles himself on and off the ice ... the way he prepares himself for games. I really look up to him."

Ryan O'Reilly
Center - COL
GOALS: 17 | ASST: 35 | PTS: 52
SOG: 159 | +/-: 0
O'Reilly became the youngest player in Avalanche history to appear in a regular-season game and the first player since 2003 picked outside the first round to start in the NHL that season -- he was taken by the Avalanche with the third pick of the second round -- when he made the opening night roster for the 2009-10 season. He had 8 goals, 26 points and a plus-4 rating in 81 games that season, and then had 13 goals and 26 points in 74 games last season.

O'Reilly credits his brother, Cal, for transforming him into a defensively responsible forward. Cal O'Reilly, four years older than Ryan, was a 2005 fifth-round pick of the Nashville Predators.

"Throughout my whole life, I've always played with his friends and I think that's where I learned my defensive side of the game," O'Reilly said. "I was always playing with guys older than me and learning how to hold my own, no matter what. He always invited me to play with him ... watching him go through the OHL (with the Windsor Spitfires) and how hard he worked and the things he did were big for me."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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