Avalanche GM Joe Sakic has a unique knack for signing NCAA executives – The Denver Post
Joe Sakic is very predictable. He covets leadership above all else.
The Avalanche general manager proved that again on back-to-back days this week by signing Minnesota State captain Wyatt Aamodt on Tuesday and University of Minnesota captain Ben Meyers on Wednesday. Both were undrafted free agents who led their teams to last week’s NCAA Frozen Four in Boston.
Meyers, 23, was one of three Hobey Baker Award finalists who had many offers to turn professional after his freshman year. He couldn’t refuse Sakic.
“Talking to someone like that was an incredible experience for me,” Meyers said Thursday night at the Ball Arena, before the Avs extended their winning streak to eight games with a 3-1 victory over the New York Devils. New Jersey.
Sakic, who donned the “C” on his chest during his 13-year Hockey Hall of Fame career, is committed to surrounding his organization with leaders — especially older guys in the college lane.
They may not play regularly for the Avs, and many have been traded or haven’t re-signed, but most have been instrumental in establishing the culture Sakic seeks with the Avs and Colorado Eagles. AHL. They fit in well with superstars as they are mature enough to accept their roles.
The move began on June 26, 2015, when Sakic acquired forward JT Compher – then University of Michigan captain – from the Buffalo Sabers as part of the big deal with Ryan O’Reilly.
Compher became a full-time member of the Avs in 2017-18, shortly after Sakic lured senior college captains Alex Kerfoot (Harvard) and Dominic Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth) to sign with the club. Both Kerfoot and Toninato used a college loophole to become free agents and sign with a team other than the one that selected them in the NHL Draft four years earlier.
Then, in 2018, Sakic signed University of Denver incoming senior Logan O’Connor, an undrafted free agent who had just been named Pioneers captain. O’Connor is currently the poster boy for the NCAA company/captain Sakic as the only Av to play in all 74 games this season.
Sakic also signed forwards Sheldon Dries and TJ Tynan in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Dries was a former Western Michigan captain and Tynan wore the C for Notre Dame. They both played primarily for the Eagles, but were also called up with the Avs during a time when the NHL club became a league powerhouse.
Every NHL team is looking for good undrafted college players or seniors looking for a loophole to sign with a team that didn’t draft them. But Sakic seems to only go after the proven leaders, the captains. His Meyers pitch worked.
“I just felt like I had the chance to join a great team and a great organization,” Meyers said. “I felt like this was the best opportunity for me to continue to develop on and off the ice.”
Off-ice development includes the culture, the character of the player. Upon signing with the Avs, Meyers got a call from Avalanche captain Gabe Landeskog who might be the perfect leader.
“It was pretty special,” Meyers said of speaking to Sakic and Landeskog. “I remember saying that to my dad and he thought it was pretty cool. So the whole experience for me was pretty surreal.