Avalanche Throwback Thursday – Duchene and O’Reilly as Rookies


In this edition of Colorado Avalanche Throwback Thursday, we take a look at the rookie seasons of Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly.

Remember when Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly were teenaged rookies, breaking into the NHL at the same time? Not that either of them is a geezer at 23 years of age. However, for a young man, especially one coming into his own in the NHL, the five years between 18 and 23 showcase the character of the player to come.

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, let’s go back in time five years to Duchene’s and O’Reilly’s rookie year.


Matt Duchene

  • 5’11, 200 pounds
  • Drafted first round, third overall
  • 24 goals, 31 assists, 55 points his rookie season

Noteworthy memory from his draft: The exuberant, “Yes!” when he does not get picked second, meaning the Colorado Avalanche could take him with their third-overall pick.

Ryan O’Reilly

  • 6’0, 200 pounds
  • Drafted second round, 33rd overall
  • 8 goals, 18 assists, 26 points his rookie season

Noteworthy memory from his draft: Avalanche administration rushing up to call his name because they couldn’t believe O’Reilly was still available.

It’s also noteworthy that Tyson Barrie was drafted that same year, going third round, 64th overall. My, how times change.

Dutchy and Footer, Factor and Tucker

Before Duchene was Dutchy or O’Reilly was Factor, they were teens observing the age-old hockey tradition of living with a veteran player. (Defenseman Erik Johnson lived with Hall of Famer Al MacInnis his rookie year in St. Louis.) Duchene lived with Adam Foote and his family, while O’Reilly lived with Darcy Tucker and his family.

O’Reilly, who grew up with parents who took in foster children, apparently was an easy roommate to accommodate. Tucker said he wasn’t sure O’Reilly could cook, but he was able to feed himself:

"“I know that he can prepare things. I don’t know if he can cook yet — I might have to put him to the test for that and see what happens. It’s been pretty good so far. He loves chocolate milk, so we have to keep a lot of that around the house.”"

According to reports at the time, the Duchene-Foote roommate situation was not so ideal. Well, it may have just been Foote playing up the role of cranky elder, but he said of Duchene:

"“He’s sitting in my spot on the couch, which I wasn’t too happy about. He’s really very sloppy. The honeymoon’s almost over. My wife’s very disappointed in how he keeps his room. When we’re on the road, she’s got to go in and clean it up. He seems to think he’s clean, but he’s pretty much a slob.”"

To be fair, Foote had that puckish gleam in his eye as he detailed these failings. In any case, Duchene had a response:

"“I’m not bad. I think I’m pretty good for an 18-year-old. My room is o.k. from day to day. It changes. I clean it every now and then. I don’t know — it’s not too bad.”"

Perhaps Foote had a point.

Funny, these days Matt Duchene is so obsessed with his bed (Essentia) and his diet (gluten-free), you somehow can’t picture him as the messy 18-year-old.

Rookie Firsts

More from Avalanche News

Both Duchene and O’Reilly made their NHL debut the same night, during the October 1, 2009, season opener against the San Jose Sharks. Both players recorded their first NHL point that same game, each earning assists.

For his first goal, O’Reilly showed his penchant for game-winners. (He tied Duchene this season for game-winning goals.)  He scored his first NHL goal on October 15, 2009, against Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens.

Matt Duchene showed his penchant for drama by scoring his first NHL goal against the blood-rival Detroit Red Wings. He beat Chris Osgood for the goal on October 17, 2009. The Avalanche announced the next day that Duchene would spend the entire season with them.

Their rookie year also saw their first NHL playoffs. Granted, likely neither player thought that would be his only playoff appearance in four years. (Then again, it’s unlikely Erik Johnson thought he’d be a seventh-year veteran for his first playoff series.) Duchene earned three assists in his first NHL playoffs. O’Reilly scored one goal.

Duchene has only ever fought one player in the NHL, the St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Sobotka. He actually didn’t fight him for the first time until his sophomore year — November 15, 2010. His win was pretty decisive. (He fought him again a couple years later.)

Ryan O’Reilly is a Lady Byng Trophy winner. Best I can tell, he’s never fought in the NHL.

Five years really does seem like a long time when you see how far these two players have come. To be honest, the road has been hilly for O’Reilly and Duchene both. Dutchy gets into his head space on occasion. And O’Reilly… well, he bites the hand that feeds, doesn’t he? The Avs Nation is happy he signed a contract before arbitration, though.

Doesn’t it excite you, though, to wonder what rookie sensation Nathan MacKinnon will be like in four years?