Sean Behrens leads DU trifecta at Avalanche development camp

The reigning NCAA hockey champions dominated the discussion on Day 1 of Avalanche development camp on Tuesday at Family Sports Center.

The University of Denver Pioneers were represented by young defenseman Sean Behrens and graduate transfer forward Cameron Wright, plus head coach David Carle, who was pushing pucks in the corners during on-ice drills.

Behrens, the Avs’ top defenseman prospect at age 19, was expected to participate in his first development camp after being selected with the 61st pick of the 2021 NHL draft. But the 23-year-old Wright, an undrafted free agent, and Carle were surprise participants.

“It’s pretty cool, everyone at DU being here. So close to campus,” Behrens said. “It’s a special thing and something you’re not going to get many other places.”

Wright, who tied Carter Savoie for a team-high 23 goals for the Pioneers last season, could become the next Logan O’Connor. Before his senior year at DU in 2018, O’Connor participated in the Avs’ development camp as an undrafted free agent and signed with the NHL club weeks later. The 25-year-old is now a mainstay with the Avs and will have his day with the Cup this month among family and friends in Calgary.

O’Connor, who helped DU win the 2017 national title, is the 33rd player to win NCAA and NHL championships. Wright hopes to be the next for whatever NHL team gives him a chance.

“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind few months here after winning the national championship. That was obviously coming off a big high, and then being invited to come to camp was super exciting,” Wright said. “(The Avs are) neighbors to us, real close by, so we’ve been watching their games and it’s been really fun so far here. It’s a world-class organization and I’ve loved my time here.”

The Pioneers and Avalanche became the first NCAA and NHL teams from the same city to win championships in the same season since 1972 (Boston University, Boston Bruins). Carle noted that DU and the Avs mirror each other in many ways — and it’s partly why he chose to attend the development camp and continue to learn from hometown pros.

“A huge honor for us, obviously, to represent the city — we wear the name on our jersey,” Carle said. “The Avalanche has been building to this for a few years … I think both teams play the game the right way. Very up-tempo, very exciting to watch. High-octane but responsible as well without the puck.

“A lot to cheer about on the hockey front around here.”

Behrens has a big summer of hockey. He’s among four DU players invited to the U.S. World Junior evaluation camp from July 24 to Aug. 3 in Plymouth, Mich. Defenseman Shai Buium and forwards Jack Devine and Carter Mazur are also among the 60 invites.

Behrens was considered a lock to make the U.S. World Junior team last winter before testing positive for COVID. Mazur made the team but the tournament was ultimately canceled because of the pandemic in Canada.

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