Ten years ago, a 162-pound defenseman like Sam Girard had no chance to play in the NHL. Ten years ago, Girard was 9 and relatively clueless about how his hockey career would pan out. As he began moving up the ranks he was continually doubted. “I would say all of my career everybody is saying I’m not going to be able to play in the NHL or even junior,” Girard said. Instead of checking the puck-carrier, Girard began to drape them, and patiently he would find the right time to use his quick stick and feet to steal the puck and go the other way. His ability to transition from defending to gaining puck-possession has been as remarkable as his ability to quarterback an NHL power play as a teenager. Throughout it all, he had to be fearless, and that came as naturally as his offensive instincts, which have netted him one goal and 11 assists this season. The Avalanche rookie has shown improvement in every facet in the 34 games since he was acquired Nov. 5 from Nashville in the three-team Matt Duchene trade. Girard logged 19:45 in Colorado’s last game Thursday in St. Louis, and could soon be playing more than 20 minutes every night. “I trust him defensively and his ability to move the puck out of (dangerous) situations and through the neutral zone,” said Avs coach Jared Bednar. The NHL ice surface is 200 feet by 85 feet and Girard seems to play equally as well in every corner — even the defensive zone where defensemen are traditionally required to knock the opponent off the puck.