Welcome to “get to know your Avs”! This feature will take a look at current Avalanche players (and maybe some staff, too) to give you an idea as to just who these guys are and what they mean to the Avalanche.
Yes, some (or most) of you will already know these guys but don’t be party poopers; nobody likes party poopers.
Today, we get a look at the Avs top stay-at-home defender of the last few years: Jan Hejda
Who: Jan Hejda
Nicknames: Heds, Jan, we need more. You get the idea.
How He Came to Denver: Signed to a four-year deal on July 1, 2011
What he’s done: Like the previously mentioned Cory Sarich, Hejda is known for his stay-at-home demeanor. He’s never been confused with the more offensively gifted defensemen in the league but he’s logged tons of minutes for the Avalanche and has been the defensive conscience of the team.
He doesn’t have the talent of Erik Johnson but he uses his size, stick, and positioning to make the smart play and clear the puck out of his own end. He’s had his detractors since he arrived in Denver (and rightfully so) but given the state of the team defense around him, it’s really hard to put it all on Hejda’s shoulders when he’s logging big minutes against the opponents’ top lines.
What he means to the team currently: He’s one of, if not thebest stay-at-home defenders on the team right now. He’s huge (6’4” 237) but he’s not going to mash anyone or be the most imposing defender when going into the corners. He uses his size to keep the puck in front of him but could stand to be a little more physical, though at 35, that’s not likely to happen.
He’s consistently a 20-point player on defense, chipping in here and there but never really a threat on the back end.
What he’s there for is to log big minutes against the top lines of the opponent and at least try to keep them at bay. As mentioned, the team defense was horrendous last year and Hejda certainly had his faults, but one would think that the team will improve defensively with Stefan Elliott and Tyson Barrie added to the roster.
What to expect: During his first two seasons in Denver, he’s finished among the team leaders in time on ice and total minutes logged so don’t expect that to change this year. He’ll be a veteran presence on a very young defensive corps and will be relied upon to take those minutes on once more.
He’ll chip in a handful of goals, finished in the high teens in points, as he has most seasons he’s played thus far. But he’ll need to be strong in his own zone, he’ll need to tutor the younger defensemen on the roster, and he’ll need to eat those big minutes once again.
Look for 4 goals, 18 points, a lot of groans, and a lot of solid plays all mixed together into one big heap.
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