Should Avalanche Fans Be Concerned That We Haven’t Seen Duncan Siemens Yet?

It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly four years since the Colorado Avalanche drafted Duncan Siemens.

For those who don’t remember, Colorado made a blockbuster trade in the middle of the night with the St. Louis Blues the season prior to the 2011 NHL draft. The Avalanche sent Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart, and a second-round pick to St. Louis for Erik Johnson, Jay McClement, and a 1st-round selection.

At this point, it’s safe to say that both teams are probably content with the trade. EJ has given the Avalanche the number-one d-man they desperately craved, and the Blues now have one of the premiere offensive blue-liners in the game in Kevin Shattenkirk.

The emergence of Alex Pietrangelo in St. Louis and Tyson Barrie in Colorado has helped to fill the voids exposed by the trade for both teams.

McClement and Stewart are no longer with either team, but a key element in the deal has yet to come to fruition for Colorado.

That element is Duncan Siemens, who was drafted with the 11th overall pick the Avalanche acquired from the Blues in 2011. It’s hard to believe that Gabriel Landeskog was drafted about an hour before Siemens.

Landy has already been named captain, and is one of the offensive leaders and part of the core of the Avalanche going forward.

Siemens is yet to appear in an NHL game.

Should Avalanche fans be concerned that he has yet to make his way to the NHL?

The three defenders picked ahead of Siemens in the 2011 draft, Adam Larsson, Dougie Hamilton and Jonas Brodin, have already played in 518 combined NHL games

It’s an interesting question, and one that isn’t simple to answer. It’s hard to know for certain how a player will perform in the NHL, until he is actually given a shot in the NHL.

It is well accepted that defenseman take longer to develop than forwards. There is a lot more responsibility and tricks to be learned to master the craft of becoming an above average NHL defender. Raw talent can only get you so far.

The forward position is a little bitt easier to fly by the seat of your pants.

In that context, Siemens still has a lot of time. After all, he is still only 21 years of age. However, upon closer inspection (thanks in part to some points brought up by Avs blogger Jibblescribbits on Twitter recently), there are reasons to be a little worried that Duncan has yet to suit up in an Avalanche sweater.

Impact, Canadian-born defenseman, who played in Juniors almost always make their NHL debut prior to their age-22 season. Siemens will turn 22 before opening night next season for the Avalanche.

In the past decade, only Duncan Keith, Shane O’Brien and Dennis Wideman are the only three prominent examples of d-man who have debuted after turning 22, and played a significant role in the NHL according to

It is a bit more common for US born players, who play college hockey to begin their NHL careers after 22. Kevin Shattenkirk, John-Michael Liles, Paul Martin, Ryan Whitney, and Keith Ballard are all current NHLers who got a late start to their career after following the college development path.

The three defenders picked ahead of Siemens in the 2011 draft, Adam Larsson, Dougie Hamilton and Jonas Brodin, have already played in 518 combined NHL games. All three have already appeared in more than two full seasons worth of NHL action. All three are now emerging as key defenseman in their respective team’s cores going forward.

Larsson and Brodin are both of Swedish decent, but Hamilton went through Canadian Major Juniors, just like Siemens. In fact, of the six Canadian born defenseman drafted in the first-round of the 2011 draft, only Siemens is yet to appear in an NHL game. The list includes Joe Morrow, Nathan Beaulieu, Jamie Oleksiak, and Stuart Percy. A tad scary considering only Hamilton was drafted ahead of Siemens.

What it means, is that Siemens appears to be a bit behind the curve on his expected development track.

It appears that Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic have decided that they value minor league experience as a valuable part of developing young players.

Siemens played every year he was eligible for his WHL team, the Saskatoon Blades, which gave him five full seasons in Juniors. He is now completing his first full professional season with the Lake Erie Monsters.

When you think of it this way, it seems like a nice luxury for a young, developing d-man to have. Why not be patient, and give him an opportunity to hone is game before coming to the spotlight of the NHL?

Big picture is that Duncan Siemens is still just 21 years of age. This isn’t an article meant to write him off, because he literally still has almost his entire professional career ahead of him. I’ve only had small glimpses of him at training camp, so I am in no place to judge the type of player he currently is.

However, I think that there is a clock ticking for him. History has shown that if you’re going to make it to the NHL and succeed as more than a journeyman type player, you do it when you’re young.

The Avalanche are in dire need of some young talent to make the jump to the NHL, and solidify the top-4 of their blue-line. In listening to Patrick Roy lately, you get the feeling that he is more confident in Chris Bigras and Mason Geertsen being those guys.

It’s a tricky situation. At 20 years old, Bigras will be pushing hard next season for a spot on the Avalanche roster in competition with Siemens. Bigras is having a season for the ages with his OHL squad, the Owen Sound Attack. He is the type of puck-moving defenseman, and power-play game changer that could look really nice playing for the Avs next year.

The Avalanche already have six contracts committed to their blue-line for next year, and Jan Hejda seems to be a likely candidate to be re-signed after the Avs chose not to trade him at the deadline.

There hardly seems like room for one of these guys, let alone both.

It’s an interesting dilemna for Siemens. There just aren’t many examples of guys debuting this late, and becoming quality NHL players. It’s not impossible for Duncan to break that mold, but I get the feeling that he needs to do whatever he can to make the Avs’ roster next season.