Growing up, in the earliest days of his hockey career, Ryan O’Reilly learned how to properly defend.
He had no choice.
Competing against his brother Cal and his friends, who were four years his senior, options were limited: Play well defensively or you won’t keep up.
Now 23, O’Reilly is an elite two-way forward in the National Hockey League. Not only does he lead the Colorado Avalanche in goals this season with 26, but he also tops all NHLers in takeaways with 73.
Considering Colorado boasts capable offensive hands in their Big Three — Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog — O’Reilly’s goal tally alone is noteworthy.
Perhaps most impressive, though, is a stat with a big fat zero beside it: Penalty minutes.