Coming in at #18 on the list of All-Time Avalanche Greats is a current member of the Avalanche.
At just 22 years old, Matt Duchene hasn’t had a lot of time to make an impact on the game or the Avalanche but he’s made the most of his four years in the league.
The third overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft (behind John Tavares and Victor Hedman), Dutchy was thrust immediately into the Avalanche lineup and did not disappoint. His 24 goals and 55 points were good enough to earn him an NHL All-Rookie Team nod as well as a third place finish in the Calder Trophy voting behindDetroitgoalie Jimmy Howard andBuffalodefenseman Tyler Myers, who won the award.
Following that up with a 67 point effort and his first NHL All-Star game, he became the youngest player in franchise history to hit 100 career points, besting his boyhood idol Joe Sakic.
After that, things got a little sticky for Duchene.
In addition to injuries to his left knee and right ankle that limited him to just 58 games and limited him during the stretch run in which the team desperately tried to make the playoffs, he also battled then-coach Joe Sacco over philosophies. Duchene is a fast, free-wheeling player who thrives on creativity while Sacco values a grinding two-way game.
For awhile, Duchene found himself in the doghouse, his ice time greatly limited. He would finish out 2011-12 with just 14 goals and 28 points, by far his worst effort as an NHLer.
During the lockout in late 2012, he played his hockey for Frolunda HC of the Swedish Elitserien League. While there, he made headlines not for his play on the ice but for instead blasting his teammates after a loss:
“If this was in the NHL, five players would be sent down to the minors after a game like this,” Duchene in a report by Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, which in turn was translated by the Denver Post. “But here, players are too comfortable. There are 33-million Canadians that would sacrifice an arm to play hockey at this level.”
Returning to the Avalanche once the lockout finally (and thankfully) ended, Duchene looked like the star player he was believed to be. The Avalanche were terrible but Dutchy thrived. His 17 goals and 43 points were good enough to put him amongst the league’s top 25 scorers to finish the season.
Sacco is gone now. He’s since been replaced by Patrick Roy, the fiery Avalanche goaltending great. The reigns have been handed to Duchene and now is the time for the 22-year-old to take the franchise on his back and show them that he’s a superstar.
Matt Duchene may be a youngster himself, slightly older than the Colorado Avalanche as a franchise (they won’t celebrate their 20th birthday until the 2015-16 season) but he’s already carved a place for himself in Avalanche history. And only time will tell just how far up the list he can ascend.
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