Avalanche draft pick Sean Behrens ready to deliver another special season for Denver hockey

Oct. 4—Sean Behrens is well aware of what it's like to live in a place with great hockey.

The Chicago product grew up during the heart of the Blackhawks dynasty when his favorite team won three Stanley Cups from 2010-15. The DU Pioneers sophomore has said his favorite player is Jonathan Toews and if you ask just about any young kid who grew up in Chicago over the last 15 years, it would probably be an even split between Toews and Patrick Kane.

But watching Behrens on the ice as he became one of the Pioneers' top blue-line players as a freshman, and with that big No. 2 on the back of his crimson sweater, it's hard not to think of Duncan Keith, the Blackhawks defenseman who was a fixture on those Cup-winning teams.

Behrens produced like a Keith-esque player on DU's top defensive pairing last season. He was named to the NCHC all-rookie team and led Pioneers defensemen in assists with 26, which also tied for the best mark among all NCAA freshmen.

All that led to helping DU capture its ninth NCAA Championship.

But the celebrations weren't over for Behrens, who's in the unique position of playing college hockey just a few minutes away from the team that drafted him — the Avalanche, who capped off the few months of domination from hockey teams in Colorado.

"Just with how good the Avs were last year and winning [the Cup], it kind of reminded me of Chicago when [the Blackhawks] were really good," Behrens told The Denver Gazette. "That was really cool to have this feel like back home when I was younger. To be a part of this city, it's an awesome experience."

Behrens and No. 1 DU begin their title defense Friday against Notre Dame while the Avs begin their title defense next week against none other than Behrens' hometown Blackhawks.

"I think our group is really excited," Behrens said. "The weekend is the start of our title defense. I think our team is really hungry again this year. I think everyone wants more. No one's satisfied because we won last year."

The biggest jump players typically make during their college career is from their freshman to sophomore seasons and after Behrens got the chance to participate in his first NHL development camp this summer with the Avs, he's even more ready to take a step forward for a DU counting on him and the rest of his talented sophomore teammates.

"That was really cool," Behrens said of his first development camp.

Behrens once again will be a part of the top defensive pairing and a key player on the power play.

"[He's] someone that we view and think really highly of and is only going to get better at our level," DU coach David Carle said.

High expectations are a common theme for the hockey teams in Denver this season. The Avs are the betting favorites to repeat as Stanley Cup champs, while DU is the favorite at the college level.

If all goes to plan for Behrens, he'll win another ring in college and then head north to Ball Arena to potentially join an NHL dynasty similar to the one he watched up close as a kid.

"After we took care of our championship, being able to watch [the Avs], how they play as a team, how fast they played and how physical they played, it was really fun to watch," Behrens said. "Just how excited the city was to watch them win and be in the Cup finals was really exciting and I can't wait to hopefully get a shot to play there one day."