In a raucous 2-1 shootout victory over the St. Louis Blues, it was the newest and youngest member of the Colorado Avalanche who drew life out of a Pepsi Center crowd scorned by 25 home losses this season. Fresh off his 19th birthday and an impressive freshman season at the University of North Dakota, Tyson Jost made his NHL debut Friday night and was welcomed to the ice with cheers. It was nothing flashy, but in his first shift, Jost introduced himself to Avalanche fans true to form, with a pair of savvy defensive zone stick plays and a breakout pass up ice.
As good as Jost was offensively for the Fighting Hawks, his 200-foot play and hockey IQ have always been the biggest hallmarks of his game. It’s no surprise then that coach Jared Bednar threw a myriad of challenges at Jost in his NHL debut. In Jost’s 13:25 of ice time, he took shifts on both special teams units, played in three-on-three overtime, and was even given an opportunity in the shootout.
When asked about Jost’s usage, it was his defensive maturity and high hockey IQ that Jared Bednar focused on.
“Smart player, does a lot of good things. He made some plays on the defensive side of the puck, he made some plays offensively. He’s a good trustworthy guy that sees the ice really well.”
Jost may have been held off the scoreboard, but he made a noticeable impact in his first game. The rookie fired two shots on goal, went an even 50% on the faceoff dot, and registered an impressive 59% corsi for percentage at even strength. “I could see throughout the game that I was already getting used to things,” Jost said. “It was an awesome experience and I just need to keep that rolling.”
After a somewhat tentative first period, Jost started to push the play in the second and third periods. Playing in all situations, Jost had no choice but to tackle the NHL’s learning curve at full speed. Jost told reporters after the game the biggest thing he had to adjust to was “How much bigger the guys are. I think that’s one thing I noticed my first few shifts and then I started getting some confidence and started having the puck a bit more and things just started to kind of click.”
In a night where the Avs’ newest rookie was placed directly under the NHL spotlight, the team-first mentality that earned Jost captaincies for both the Penticton Vees and Team Canada shone through. Asked about his personal goals for the end of the season, Jost was quick to defer to the success of his team:
“I’m a competitive person and I want to do the best I can and I want to help this team down the stretch and maybe put together a few wins. That’s one box I can check for sure is getting my first win in an Avs jersey. That’s pretty special and that’s kind of the person I am, if the team wins I’m going to be happy.”
“[Taking the shootout] is a big honor. Obviously, it was pretty humbling. It would have been a bit nicer if I scored that [shootout goal]but like I said we got those two points and that’s special. That’s really all I care about. I could honestly care less if I miss that shootout.”
In the final quarter of the season, the Avalanche have seen a number of young talents emerge on their roster, including defenseman Anton Lindholm and the game’s first star, J.T. Compher, but none boast the long-term NHL potential Tyson Jost does. The mature beyond his years 19-year-old has often been compared to fellow North Dakota alum Jonathan Toews and, in his first outing, the similarities were apparent.
As cool and collected as Jost appeared in his NHL debut, the rookie forward was quick to tell media “There was a little bit of nerves, for sure. I mean that’s pretty usual. I’m only human.”
Last year’s 10th overall pick, Tyson Jost is a big part of the Avalanche’s future, and his infectious energy has already helped to stop a 7-game losing skid, but don’t expect him to change the franchise all at once, despite the Toews-ian comparisons. After all, he’s only human.