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Duchene learning sharing not always a good thing

Saturday, 06.20.2009 / 9:00 AM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

One of the first things a parent teaches its child is to share. Matt Duchene's parents might have taught their son too well.

Duchene, the No. 2 North American skater in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings for the 2009 Entry Draft, looked at his game and said one place he needs improvement is being more selfish.

"Not shooting the puck has been a detriment to my game," Duchene, a center for the Ontario Hockey League's Brampton Battalion, told NHL.com. "Sometimes I'm too unselfish; I'd rather make a pass than take the shot. It's something that doesn’t come naturally so it's hard to bring into your game."

"I think what it is, is he's got a playmaker mentality -- pass first, shoot second," said Brampton coach Stan Butler. "He passes up opportunities to shoot the puck and he shouldn't. That's something we're working on with him."

Shoot or pass, those who watch him say Duchene's game is just fine.

"Duchene's a leader both on the ice and off the ice," said an Eastern Conference personnel executive. "Wherever he's been he's produced and he's led his team and I think that's what he's going to do at the NHL level. He's passionate about the game and he brings a lot of quickness and speed to the game -- just a smart, skilled hockey player."

"Duchene has the ability to dominate a game," said Central Scouting's Chris Edwards. "He is an excellent all-round skater with great speed, his playmaking and ability to see the ice and move the puck through traffic to create offense are outstanding.

"He has a very good shot, but I see his best asset as his speed and ability to beat defensemen to the middle or outside."

He beat defenseman all over the ice in 2008-09, his second with Brampton. He was third on the team in the regular season with 31 goals, 79 points and a plus-32 rating.

Duchene was even better in the OHL playoffs, finishing tied for second among all players with 14 goals and third with 31 points in 21 games. 

Not bad for a player who -- in his mind, at least -- got off to a slow start this season, which he says was because he was just out of the starting blocks but already was looking at the finish line -- the 2009 draft.

"At the beginning of the year I was inconsistent," he told NHL.com. "Once I started thinking shift-to-shift I started having more success."

Helping him with his focus was teammate Cody Hodgson. Hodgson and Duchene have been playing hockey together since they were 5-year-olds playing on a major tyke team in Haliburton, Ont. They were opponents for a few years after Hodgson's family moved to Markham and he played midget hockey for the Markham Waxers while Duchene played for the Central Ontario Wolves.

"Every summer we'd come back together and we'd spend a bit of the summer together," Hodgson told NHL.com. "We'd go to his cottage, he'd come to my cottage and we'd play in this spring tournament together."

They were reunited when the Battalion drafted Duchene with the fifth pick of the 2007 OHL Priority Draft, the year after they used the 17th pick to select Hodgson. Duchene arrived in Brampton last season.

"He's really matured as a player," said Hodgson. "He's not just an offensive player; he's a two-way guy that you can count on in all situations. If I'm not going on draws on some nights, I'll switch it over to Matt because I have perfect faith in him that he can win the draws, as well."

Beyond helping Duchene on the ice, Hodgson has been just as important off the ice.

"They're very good friends, and its like having an older brother," said Butler. "Matt is in a situation where he's seen his friend go through it. He talks to Cody a lot about things and that's beneficial for Matt."

"I've always leaned on Cody my whole OHL career," said Duchene. "Last year coming in as a rookie I leaned on him a lot. This year I know who to go to."

Hodgson had his draft-season experiences last season, which culminated in him being the 10th pick of the 2008 Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks. He said he and Duchene have talked, but he hasn't needed to tell his friend too much.

"Matt knows most of that stuff already," said Hodgson. "He's been handling it pretty well. I don't really have too much advice for him. He's doing pretty well. The only thing I can say is enjoy the whole process and have no regrets."

He hasn't had much to worry about -- except getting more selfish.

"I'm always looking for chances to shoot it," said Duchene. "It comes down to being more selfish and not looking pass first shoot second. In practice I'm trying to shoot through defenders, use them as screens -- shoot as much as possible in practice so it becomes habit."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.