Oct 27, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov (1) is congratulated for the win by center Matt Duchene (9) following the game against the Winnipeg Jets at the Pepsi Center. The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Jets 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The New Leader: Matt Duchene

Matt Duchene has come a long way.

A young face in a sea of young faces, the 22-year-old has not only become the best player on the Avalanche, but one of its core leaders.  Not to say that he should usurp Gabriel Landeskog as the captain – no one is saying anything bad about Gabe Landeskog, relax – but it’s evident the strides he’s taken.

His popularity in Denver aside, Duchene has elevated his game to new heights. Don Cherry, he who bows at the feet of Sidney Crosby on a nightly basis, called Duchene the best player in the league right now on Saturday night. Think about that for a minute.

It’s quite the change from two years ago, when the Avs were terrible and Duchene struggled with inconsistent play and nagging injuries. There was also his frequent butting of the heads with then-coach Joe Sacco.

Since then, he’s seen his play improve and he’s shown signs of being a real leader. When the team isn’t performing, he’ll tell you. You can see the passion in his body language; the fact that he cares is etched on his face.

He’s embraced the style of play that head coach Patrick Roy wants out of this team – he plays to the team’s strengths instead of forcing it to be something that it’s not, part of the issue he had with Sacco – and makes the most out of it. He plays his guts out every night, setting an example for those around him.

His maturity and development have led to his success thus far and what should be his best season to date. It’s not out of hand to think that, should he keep the pace up, he could be in line for some postseason hardware depending on

For Matt Duchene, it felt like a long time coming. And Avs fans can enjoy the road ahead.

Ryan is the editor of Mile High Sticking as well as co-owner of The Farm Club. Follow him on Twitter to talk Avs, Sabres, hockey in general, or to let him know what a yutz he is.

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Tags: 2013-14 Season Colorado Avalanche Gabriel Landeskog Matt Duchene Sidney Crosby

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