After a consistently good playoff showing with the Colorado Avalanche, Logan O’Connor is ready to get going.
“I’ve been itching to get back here as fast as I can,” O’Connor said.
“The learning curve, and getting out there with the (Nathan) MacKinnons and (Mikko) Rantanens — that’s passed. Those days are over.”
The son of Myles, who appeared in 43 career NHL games, O’Connor won a national championship at Denver in 2017. He drew attention at Colorado’s development camp as an undrafted free agent. The Avalanche signed O’Connor away from the Pioneers, who had just named him captain ahead of his senior year.
He split two seasons between the Colorado Eagles (AHL) and the Avalanche. He had two goals in 16 games’ worth of call-ups last regular season, but hadn’t made a name for himself.
“He had some opportunity to come up and play for us and he was just OK,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said. “And then we’d go watch him play with the Eagles and I felt like he was outstanding, in the trips I made up there anyway. He was one of the best players on the ice.”
What Bednar saw in Loveland was a versatile, energetic player and excellent penalty killer. But it wasn’t translating at the next level.
“We wanted to get him to play the same way up here as he played there,” Bednar said. “So we’ve had some conversations with him.
“He’s a guy that’s really come a long way from the first time we had him (here).”
When injuries started taking a significant toll in the 2020 postseason bubble, O’Connor filled in on the fourth line against the Dallas Stars.
He appeared in five of seven games in that series and his ice time climbed. He thought he thrived in his personal game, though the team met a second straight Game 7, second-round end.
“Before I was a little hesitant. I was afraid to make mistakes,” O’Connor said. “I sometimes was unsure with myself.
"In the playoffs, I saw it as an I-have-nothing-to-lose type thing. We were down in the series. Everyone needed to be rejuvenated a little bit. I figured, might as well go out and play what I feel like is my best game.
“Taking risks and gaining more confidence throughout the playoffs was crucial to my development. Having that experience is going to be crucial down the road, I think.”
The wait ended and training camp opened Monday. O’Connor has been in the mix with Tyson Jost, who’s spent most of three seasons with the big club, newcomer Kiefer Sherwood and former first-rounder Martin Kaut.
With Jost filling in on the second line while Gabriel Landeskog and Brandon Saad remained “unfit to practice,” O’Connor was on the fourth line during the Avalanche’s first scrimmage of training camp Wednesday. He’s fit in well there with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Matt Calvert, Bednar said.
“In games — he’s playing more to his identity. He’s kind of bought into that. There’s a simplicity to his game but it’s also very effective,” Bednar said.
O’Connor said he’s concerned about his own game, not the competition. He has worked on being more patient with the puck and adding “corner weight” for shutting down top players.
“Working on little in-tight play with my hands,” he added. “I need to catch those up with my feet sometimes.
“If I play how I know I can play and play to my strengths, I’ll hopefully set myself up for success. Everyone’s competing against everyone I’d say. It’s pretty open.”