When you are being compared to players like Steve Yzerman and Mike Richards, you know there is something about your game that developed correctly.
Pressure is tough to adapt to within the NHL. Even more so when the father figure of your franchise, Joe Sakic, has just recently retired and the team is now searching for something of a new identity.
Enter Matt Duchene. The 5'11", 200-lb. 19 year old made the Colorado Avalanche directly out of training camp which came as a surprise to some but there were the others who felt he was a lock out of the draft.
He appeared in 81 games this season for Colorado, missing only one game due to a torso injury. In those games, Duchene tallied 55 points (24 G, 31 A). That was good for third on the team in scoring behind only Paul Statsny and Chris Stewart.
As a league-wide rookie, Duchene beat out the New York Islanders freshman John Tavares for rookie leader in points by one in one less game played.
10 of Duchene's 24 goals game on the power play. He was a plus-one on the season with two game winning goals and a shorthanded goal.
Head coach Joe Sacco felt confident in using the first year star in all aspects of the game.
Only a few other rookies in the league had more of an impact in helping their club advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. They were Tyler Myers of the Buffalo Sabres,Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins, Antti Niemi of the Chicago Blackhawks and Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings.
Of the aforementioned players, the NHL has declared the finalists to be Howard, Myers; and the man with the spotlight from this article, Duchene.
Yes, Jimmy Howard helped the Red Wings when many felt all hope was lost at a playoff birth. But when your team is complied of future Hall of Famers and have been the model franchise that many other clubs try to mold their teams in similar fashion, it creates a debate as to the standards involved in who to give the Calder Trophy to.
Yes, Myers performed at a level unexpected from a first year player, but so did Duchene. Sure, as many say, it takes defensemen longer to develop into a full time NHLer, but Myers defied the odds. As the season progressed, so did Myers and he became a top-two blueliner with his team and an eventual power play quarter back.
However, it was Duchene who stood out and improved the most as the season went on. He ranked among the league’s top rookies in games (T-5th), power-play goals (2nd), shots (4th-180) and shooting percentage (1st-13.3%).
The Calder trophy goes to the "best" rookie of the year. Well, if 'Dutchy' wasn't the best rookie, then I probably shouldn't write hockey articles; but I do, and will continue to. And when Matt Duchene is called up to the podium at the NHL Awards show to obtain his Calder Trophy to thank his agent, his parents, his coaches through the years, his teams, Joe Sacco and the Colorado Avalanche, I'll be back here to write about it again.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.