It’s been a good month for 21-year-old Colorado Avalanche defenceman, Kevin Shattenkirk. Maybe for you too, if you were savvy enough to snag him early. But that would put you in the minority. For the rest of us, we’ve had to watch in increasing awe as the young defender racked up 14 points in his first 15 games in the NHL.
Don’t punish yourself too harshly though, things have gone far better then most poolies, the Avalanche, and (likely) Shatterkirk himself could have expected. But that’s the way of hockey in the post-lockout NHL. If you’re young, success can come suddenly – especially if you play in the Mile-High City.
Leading Up to the Breakout
The Greenwich, Connecticut-native is a product of USA Hockey’s construct-a-champion program known as the National Team Development Program. The NTDP is composed of an Under-17 and an Under-18 squad, and its kids represent the next-gens of Team USA. The program’s charges are handpicked, embarrassingly well-resourced, and intended to defeat all competitor’s on the world stage. Think teenaged Navy SEALs with one-piece sticks.
After playing for both of the NTDP’s squads (and captaining the U-18 team), Shattenkirk was drafted 14th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2007.
Leading up to that draft, he was interviewed by McKeen’s, and during that interview he described himself as an offensive defenseman, and said that he tried to model his game after Brian Leetch.
He played three years at Boston University, usually scoring in the neighbourhood of 30 points over 40ish games. Shattenkirk was named to Team USA’s entry to the 2008-09 World Junior Championship (nine points in six games). And in 2009-10, he was the first non-senior named team captain since Don Draper was doing his thing on Madison avenue (that’s 40 years ago for those of you who don’t get AMC). He finished his college career with 18 goals and 78 points in 121 games played.
Departing college in the spring of 2010, Shattenkirk signed a try-out contract with the Avalanche’s AHL farm team, the Lake Erie Monsters, and began his professional career on April 7th, 2010, playing out the team final three games of the season.
This past September, Shattenkirk had a solid camp with the Avalanche, but was sent back down to Lake Erie before the start of the NHL season. As reported by the Denvor Post, Avs head coach Joe Sacco said, “we want him to make plays, we want him to be creative offensively, but he needs to be able to be more abrasive in his own end and a little more difficult to play against.” In other words, go ride the bus for a while son, and come back tougher.
Shattenkirk’s 2010-11 Season (in case you’ve been living under a rock…)
On the bus or otherwise, things didn’t go so well for Shattenkirk in Lake Erie to start the 2010-11 season. For an offensive defenceman, he disappointed, putting up exactly zero points in his first ten games with the Monsters.
But like so many other rookies in the NHL, opportunity came in the form of injuries to more established members of the dressing room. On November 3rd, with both Adam Foote and Kyle Cuminsky facing concussion-like symptoms, Shatterkirk was recalled to Colorado.
Things were initially quiet on the scoring front, with only one assist to show for his first six games, but he was logging major minutes, sometimes over 20 minutes of ice time.
Then, on November 17th, Shattenkirk scored his first NHL goal. The very next game he scored his second. The night after that he picked up two assists. Amazingly, he’s had at least one point in every game since, all while continuing to impress his coach and earning quality even-strength and power-play minutes.
By late November, buzz was starting to build. Folks like Fighting Emu were pointing out that something was going on with this kid, even if more people weren’t taking about him yet.
The penny dropped when the Avs sent Scott Hannan to the Washington Capitals on November 30th. Shattenkirk was in Denver to stay.
Even when the veteran d-men return, many think Shattenkirk will retain his prime ice time. Jeff Mackie over at thecheapseats.ca said, “owners can expect Shattenkirk to maintain his power play time when the Avs get healthy. Foote, of course, is not a power play guy, and while Cumiskey is an option on the second unit, he just doesn’t compare to Shattenkirk in terms of his offensive skill.”
Shattenkirk-mania has started in corners. One guy flipped him for Pronger (scroll down to Toronto1979’s post at time stamp 12-4-10, 1130pm).
Yes, that’s right. Chris freaking Pronger. Wow.
While most wouldn’t condone a move like that, it shows what some people think of the rookie. Now is not be the time to trade for the sizzling-hot blueliner.
And yet Shattenkirk is still available in almost two-thirds of all Yahoo! Leagues (probably those same leagues where Ondrej Pavalec is still available). So if you can snag him from the wire, then congratulations (although it may be time to find a more competitive league).
Whether you own him or not, don’t expect the points to keep coming in at this pace, he’s scoring at a rate faster than even his college years. Plus, younger players like Shattenkirk often slow down as the league chugs into its second half. And while he’s not 18, don’t forget that he has effectively jumped from a 40-odd game college schedule to an 82-game NHL schedule.
Regardless, the future looks pretty bright for the young blueliner. He’s impressing his coach and earning quality minutes, he plays for an offensively-minded team (second overall in goals per game in the NHL right now), and he’s doing what he was drafted to do, skate an offensive defensemen.
I think even Brian Leetch would be proud.