"We are very fortunate in that we have the No. 1, the No. 2 and No. 3 draft prospects that have joined our family," Rhodes said Friday afternoon after introducing Brampton Battalion center Matt Duchene as the company's latest product endorser. Duchene will join top prospect Victor Hedman in endorsing the company's Reebok line; John Tavares will endorse the company's CCM brand.
Duchene, ranked No. 2 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, took time from his schedule for a short Q&A session with NHL.com hours before the first round of the 2009 Entry Draft:
NHL.com: We're just a few hours away from the start of the Draft. What's going through your mind right now?
Matt Duchene: I don't have any clue where I'm going yet, so I'm pretty open-minded and really looking forward to it.
NHL.com: When you started training for this season back in August, you knew this moment would come at some point. Now that we're here, is the draft experience what you thought it would be?
Duchene: Yeah, pretty similar. There's been ups and downs, but I think I've rebounded well. All that other stuff, all the failures I went through, they don't matter right now, they're all in the past. This is something I've wanted and something that I've gotten. I can't be more thankful than I am.
NHL.com: No one seems to know what the Islanders are planning to do with the top pick. Pretend I'm Isles GM Garth Snow and tell me why I should take you with the first pick?
Duchene: I think I'm a different player than some of the other guys that have been mentioned for that. It depends on what kind of style you like. If you want a guy that's a pretty good two-way guy, a heart-and-soul guy, a playoff performer, I think I'm the guy you want to go with.
NHL.com: What do you think it's going to feel like when you hear your name called?
Duchene: I don't even know yet. I can't even picture it. It's something that's only happened once (OHL draft) and it's so surreal. Until I'm sitting in that seat and I hear the first name called and I see whoever it is go up -- and it might even be myself go up -- it's not going to hit me what this really is until that actually happens. I can't even tell you.
NHL.com: Do you have any favorite draft-day memories from watching it on TV?
Duchene: I've never been to one. I had the opportunity to come last year, but I wanted to have the awe factor of this year and see it for the first time.
The draft I remember (are) the ones from recently. Probably the next most exciting one as far as drama to this year is the year they had the lottery for Crosby. That one was definitely a big memory.
NHL.com: You had a sensational run in the OHL playoffs with 14 goals and 26 points in 21 games. How much do you think that raised your stock in the teams' eyes?
Duchene: I'm a guy that's always performed well in the playoffs. I've always played my best hockey in the playoffs and I think that's a pretty coveted attribute. You look at the players in the NHL that are regarded as the best and they're all playoff performers. I'm that type of player and that's something I'd like to carry on in the NHL someday.
NHL.com: A lot of people have pegged you for going third to Colorado, and compared you to Joe Sakic. Do you like that comparison?
Duchene: It's a pretty unfair comparison. A guy like him -- he's a guy that's been someone I've been aspiring to be like. The fact that I'm getting compared to him is unbelievable. I can't believe people compare me to a guy like that. It makes me very proud. He's a guy I've looked up to my entire life.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com