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Matt Duchene: Year in Review

June 26th, 2009, Bell Centre, Montreal Canada-

A hushed crowd perches atop the edges of their red tinted seats inside the home of the Habs. The die-hard fans occupying the 21,273 capacity cavern (largest in the NHL), teeter in collective anxious silence awaiting the picks of the 2009 draft. The only sounds filling the void are the biting of hundreds of French-Canadian nails and Brian Burke's ulcer.

Suddenly, a name is announced over the PA as the Tampa Bay Lightning's selection, number 2 overall, of the 2009 NHL draft: Victor Hedman. Simultaneously, a brash baby faced 18 year-old seated in the Bell Centre crowd performs a not-so-discreet fist pump, along with an unanimous army of electrified Avalanche fans across the globe, for Matt Duchene was destined to the team he grew up cheering for.

Matt Duchene

#9 / Forward / Colorado Avalanche

Height: 5-11

Weight: 200

Born: Jan 16, 1991, (19 years old), Haliburton, Canada

Drafted: Colorado's first choice (3rd overall) in the 2009 entry draft

2009-2010 Salary: $3,400,000

Contract Status: Under Contract through 2011-2012 (when he will become a Restricted Free Agent)

Fun Fact: Duchene's 55 rookie points were second only to SoS' 78 points in Avalanche rookie history

Stat Fact: Led all NHL rookies with 55 points, Led Avalanche in Power Play goals, and multi-goal games.

Random Fact: Maintained a consistent shooting percentage throughout season, despite goal droughts.













1st Half

41 11 14 25 -8 6 -- 4 1 1 83 13.3

2nd Half

40 13 17 30 +9 10 -- 6 0 1 97 13.4
















0 3 3 -2 0 19:19 0 0 0 9 0.00

More shenanigans after the jump....

Duchene roared into camp and quickly cemented a firm place with the squad, squashing any questions as to whether he would go back to juniors for another year. Boy Wonder scored an assist in his first NHL game on Oct 1st, the Joe Sakic retirement extravaganza that saw the young and underestimated Avs drop the loaded Stanley Cup favorite San Jose Sharks by a sound score of 5-2. Despite the promising start, Dutchy didn't exactly fly out of the gates. He posted only 7 points (2 goals) in his first 21 games, even with big minutes at both even strength and on the PP. Regardless of some trouble acclimating to NHL caliber goalies, and finding lots of iron instead of twine, Duchene still managed to impact the game with his speed, skill, and fearlessness. He dazzled and memorized players and fans alike. Matt created a surplus of scoring chances and played a huge role in the orchestration of Sacco's team identity and game style.

Duchene didn't struggle for too long however, and on Nov. 30th he netted his first 2-goal game which in return sparked the best stretch of his career to date. The Wunder Kid scored 13 points (5 goals, 8 assists) in 14 December contests, on his way to being deemed the NHL's rookie of the month. Matt continued to be a consistent scorer up to the Olympic break, when like the rest of the team, he suffered a dip in production. Unfortunately, his goal scoring finished the year much like it started, and Duchene only netted 1 goal in his last 21 games, including 6 playoff games.

Notwithstanding the goal scoring slumps, Duchene rarely plays a bad shift, let alone a bad game. Even when he isn't scoring, he is always a legitimate threat, and he always gives 100%. Dutchy got more comfortable and improved overall during the course of the season, which is more than can be said for most players. His +/- rallied from a -8 at mid-season, to a +1 at season's end. Plus/Minus is often a worthless stat, but for Duchene I think it's telling because he suffered through a constant carousel of linemates due to injuries, and so his plus/minus generally seemed less effected by his random shifting of teammates than it did his own personal play (except for when he played alongside Svatos - Marek killed everyone's +/-), meaning he became more consistently responsible by season's end. No plateau.

Many of the things Duchene does well, you can't teach: skating, hockey sense/smarts, quick feet, speed, awesomeness, etc. Much has also been mentioned about his intangibles: his leadership skills and drive to win. He could very easily have a "C" on his chest in the not too distant future of flying cars and robot babies. And the few things he needs to improve on will come as he matures and becomes stronger as a player and a person: like face offs. Duchene went 44% in the face off circle during the regular season, and an even uglier 36.2% in the post season against SJ's dominating face off men. But who needs face offs when you got this:

(for more on Duchene's stellar performance, stats, etc., check out Dustin's Post of final grades)