Finding a place in the NHL has been a long road for Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nick Holden. He just turned 27 several days ago, and has only just completed his rookie season. That by itself is incredibly remarkable, considering that for most players, if you're on the north side of 25 and you haven't broken into the NHL yet, it isn't going to happen. But it happened for Holden.
Holden was one of several free agent acquisitions on defense for Colorado last summer. He, alongside Nate Guenin and Andre Benoit, were other teams' cast offs that the Avalanche acquired via free agency. As a credit to the Avalanche scouting and coaching staff, all three became regulars on a much improved defensive group. Holden had 10 goals and 15 assists in just 54 games, major production for a defenseman. That level of offensive production is what teams expect from their top two defensemen, and Holden was never that last year. He also excelled at playing smart, making sure that he was in the correct position and keeping oncoming shooters to the outside. This past season, Holden found an NHL home with the Avalanche.
Now the question is where Holden will fit into next year's lineup. The team has a few developing defensemen who will be making good cases for roster spots this fall. There's Duncan Siemens, who Colorado drafted nine picks after taking captain Gabriel Landeskog in the first round of the 2011 draft. There's Stefan Elliott, who has been called up several times since being drafted in 2009, a round sooner than Tyson Barrie, who emerged as a part of the Avalanche core last season. And there is also Chris Bigras, who the Avalanche selected in the second round last year.
Despite the up and coming talent, Holden should have an edge with making next year's team. He played so well in his first season that he would have to have the wheels fall off completely for him to lose his spot. If one of the new guys makes the team out of training camp, it's a safe bet that someone other than Holden would be replaced.
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