When Matt Duchene was drafted third overall by the Colorado Avalanche this past summer, it was assumed by most that he'd make a big impact on the team almost immediately. After all, he was considered a top tier talent. He would be joining a depleted team of rookies and career under-performers, damaged by the departure of big name stars and numerous, nagging injuries.
But Duchene got off to a slow start, and was temporarily overshadowed by a fellow 18 year-old rookie center, Ryan O'Reilly. After 21 games, "Dutchie" had scored only seven points, and was far behind other rookies like the Islanders' John Tavares (1st overall, 2009) and the Flyers' James van Riemsdyk (2nd overall, 2007). They both had 19 points after 21 games.
The NHL learning curve isn't the same for everybody, even the most talented young players. Coach Joe Sacco kept playing Duchene, despite the rookie's struggle to get on the scoreboard, and it has since paid off. In his 22nd game (November 18), Duchene scored two points, lifting his total to nine. He scored ten points in the next ten games. Between December 15 and 31, Duchene scored eight points in seven games. More recently, he has seven points in his last six.
Duchene has since caught and passed the other rookies in the NHL. Below are the scoring trends of the top five NHL rookie scorers (Duchene, Tavares, van Riemsdyk, Tyler Myers, and Nicklas Bergfors), visualized:
While other rookies have stalled in their scoring, perhaps under the weight of a long season and their unfamiliarity with the physical rigors of the NHL, Duchene has steadily improved. Since his 22nd game, he's been on a very steady point-scoring pace.
Duchene has proven to be an invaluable asset to the Avalanche, just as predicted. It just took a little patience on the part of the coaching staff, the fans, and Duchene himself. Well worth the wait.