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 N