Something to keep in mind with these three guys we have, especially Liles. Proper developement for an NHL player consists of not just ability but a total change in althetic responsiblility (taking care of your body for a much longer season) and the mental change to a 80 game season in the NHL/AHL. Liles hasn't even had seasons a third that long in his career. The recent ydr article on Stephens I think demonstrates the importance of not rushing young players too quickly.
Dario - I think if you go back and look at Liles' career (and those of others on a similar path), you will find that they played 75-80 games both years with the US National Team before college. Their schedule was more weekend-heavy obviously, since they were in high school and had to attend class, but most of those guys did get somewhat acclimated to a much heavier game load than the typical 35-40 games played in a college career. My guess would be that they also had nutritionists and psychologists who worked with them, since it was the U.S. National Team program.
I think nutrition is a bigger problem with players from juniors. Coaches in most athletic departments in college are really good about making sure their players eat right. The only stories that I hear about players having to adjust to a proper diet in the NHL are from juniors. Joe Thornton comes to mind. NHL 2 Night had a cover story on him having nutrition problems his rookie year because he thought McDonald's was a good meal.
I don't think Liles will have a huge problem if he sticks with the team. Drury made a pretty good transition from a college schedule to an NHL season that went deep into the playoffs. Although Drury contradicts my previous point because Hartley told him if he didn't lay off the Little Debbie cakes, he'd be on the next bus to Hershey.
I'm not saying it's not a refutable position on player developement. But it will be a challenge. The last time the Avalanche played "just" 84 games was never. They will get their playoff games in there too. It's a long season. I've talked with John briefly and heard a few other interviews as well and I admit he's very mature and just the kind of guy who would be responsible enough to understand how long of a season it is and how to approach it. There are several cases of college players doing well right out of the gate so maybe he will be fine.
I'm not disputing anyone's statements regarding nutrition but on a related note I heard Clinton Portis on Fox Sports Rockey Mountain Thursday night say he lived on fast food. Portis isn't playing 82+ games of course but he is playing a grueling NFL schedule where the body takes a huge beating. I suspect it'll catch up to him if he doesn't change his ways though.
I suspect it is very individual where a guy is psysically and mentally at 20-21. Some guys crash and burn pretty fast while there are some 20 year old that doesn't seem to miss a beat when making the transition. Colorado have a pretty good track record of bringing up guys so hopefully there are people in the organization that are good judges of when someone is ready.
It is of course also important that the other members of the team help the new ones out quite a bit. I think a guy like Adam Foote is good to have around to help with new defensemen. Have no real evidence of it but he strikes me as that kind of person.