Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin of Erie was a 2020 NHL All-Star, winning the accuracy shooting at the skills competition in St. Louis.
Anaheim Ducks forward Troy Terry of Highlands Ranch will become Colorado’s second home-grown NHL All-Star early next month in Las Vegas. And former NHL forward Nick Shore of Denver will represent the U.S. men’s hockey team at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics in China.
Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo of Colorado Springs can explain what he has in common with Slavin, Terry and Shore.
“It speaks a lot about the Colorado Thunderbirds and how they helped us along the way,” Carlo said of the triple-A youth organization when in town this past Wednesday to play the Avs.
Hockey development in Colorado has reached a high level — an amazing achievement based on what the landscape used to be. The influx of Avalanche and other NHL alumni living along the Front Range has made it a national hot spot for youth hockey from Colorado Springs/Monument to Loveland/Fort Collins. Triple-A organizations such as the Colorado Rampage (Monument) and Rocky Mountain RoughRiders (Superior) have been stellar at helping a AA player dream of playing on bigger stages.
The Denver-area Thunderbirds, now led by NHL veteran David Clarkson and coached by former Avs such as Ken Klee and John Mitchell, seem to have the most alumni moving on to the college, junior and professional ranks, most notably Slavin, 27; Carlo, 25; and Terry, 24. Shore, 29, helped pave the way before them.
They each played for the Thunderbirds at least through midget 16-under.
“For guys like Slavin, and obviously Troy, it’s been so fun to watch them succeed so much within the NHL and get the honor of being an All-Star. Very well earned,” said Carlo, who has a Denver-area home. “I see them a lot in the summertime, Troy especially. He’s been amazing since the first time that I played with him.”
Avs coach Jared Bednar, who is from Yorkton, Saskatchewan, watched hockey grow in the south when he coached with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays. Bednar still has a home in South Carolina. He now sees the growth in Colorado — including Northern Colorado where the Colorado Eagles, the Avs’ AHL affiliate, are extremely popular.
“One of many markets I think now that are doing a fantastic job with their minor hockey program development,” Bednar said of the Front Range. “All positives from a hockey standpoint and it’s happening all over the place, not just in Denver. I see it happening up in Fort Collins a lot now — they’re trying to build more rinks up there, and the hockey programs, as they move on and travel nationwide (are doing well).”
Off to the Olympics. Shore said he is leaving for China in “a few days.” Jesse Compher, a member of the U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team, departed for China on Thursday. She is the sister of Avalanche forward J.T. Compher.
“It’s such an exciting time for my family and I,” J.T. Compher said. “Just every step along the way has been fun. She left Minnesota (training camp) and there was almost like a parade for them as they were going to the airport, and (Tuesday) they got to try on all the Olympic clothes for opening ceremonies and stuff. It’s fun to see her enjoying it and we can’t wait for the games to finally get going.”
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