Since being selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the first round (third overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Matt Duchene has reached records that took years for other honorary members of the 20th Anniversary Team to reach.
On Oct. 15, 2013, Duchene (22 years, 272 days) became the fourth-youngest player in franchise history to reach 200 points, behind only Hall of Famers Joe Sakic, Michel Goulet and Mats Sundin. After just six campaigns with Colorado, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound center is 12th on the franchise’s all-time scoring list with 332 points (134 goals and 198 assists) in 419 games.
“That’s hard to remember sometimes when you are going through struggles and ups and down and you’re in season,” Duchene said of recognizing his accomplishments. “It’s something I could definitely remind myself of more.”
Growing up an Avs fan, the Haliburton, Ontario, native said it’s an honor to not only be named to the team, but to appear amongst the names of his heroes, players he watched as a kid. Getting to share the moment with some of his current teammates (Gabriel Landeskog, Erik Johnson, Semyon Varlamov and Alex Tanguay) is special as well.
“It’s a big year for the organization and for hockey in Colorado, and it’s exciting to be a part of that,” he said about Colorado’s 20th season. “Just to play at the Pepsi Center and to have that as a home rink is special for me.”
Some of Duchene’s favorite memories include being a rookie with the organization during the 2009-10 campaign. That year, he was a finalist for the Calder Trophy and was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team after posting a freshman-leading 55-point (24 goals and 31 assists) performance.
“We made playoffs, and I was able to score the shootout winner that put us in the playoffs,” he said about the his first year in the league. “There’s a lot of good memories from that year. Just some of the guys that I played with—Milan Hejduk, Adam Foote, Darcy Tucker, Stephane Yelle—just some of those veteran guys, I learned so much from them. They were guys that really took me under their wing. Really, just the bond I was able to create with those guys is very special. I have just amazing memories of that first year.”
Duchene became the youngest player in franchise history (20 years, 84 days) to lead the team in scoring during following campaign, notching 67 points (27 markers and 40 helpers) in 80 games while also reaching the 100-point milestone as a sophomore skater. At the age of 20, Duchene also became the youngest Avalanche player to participate in an NHL All-Star Game.
He noted that there are a lot of good memories littered throughout his playing days.
“Two years ago, when we made the playoffs again and we finished first in the division, that was probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey, I think,” he said. “Everybody was rolling and things were going well for everyone. It’s sad that we didn’t make it past that first round. I think, had we been healthier, we would have. I could go on for probably 10 minutes about good memories, but I’ve had more good than bad in my six going on seven years now.”
Despite everything the 24 year old has been able to accomplish, Duchene says he’s not even at his physical prime, but he’s close.
“I want to get there as soon as possible, and be a part of Team Canada, World Championship, the Olympics and the World Cup,” the six-season pro said. “Stuff like that is always a goal for me. Those are the individual parts that come second, but when you are achieving those you are helping your team, so they go hand-in-hand.”
Duchene has already won gold medals with Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and at the 2015 IIHF World Championship in Prague, Czech Republic. Only one thing remaining in order for him to join the prestigious Triple Gold Club.
Duchene everyone else on the Avalanche squad are determined to reach the peak of the mountain, and that’s winning a Stanley Cup.
“That’s the biggest thing, and to do it here with this group of Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic running the show and our assistant coach Tim Army, guys that you develop relationships with,” Duchene said about what motivates him. “I think that’s the biggest thing, but the other thing too is that I don’t stop until I feel that I’m at the top of my game and have maximized my potential. I still feel like I have another full step to go.”
Duchene says he won’t stop working hard until he’s the best he can be, and that work ethic is seen in his play.
“When I’m back home in the summer and I’m running uphill on my road and dying, feeling awful, that’s what I have in the back of my mind. I’m a really driven person.”
During the 2012-13 campaign, Duchene led the Avs in points (43-tied), assists (26), shots (132) takeaways (44), faceoff percentage (54.6), time on ice (20:55 per game) and finished second on the team in goals (17). He similarly dominated the stats in 2013-14 as well, leading the club in points (70) and assists (47). For the past three years, Duchene has also led the Avalanche in game-winning goals, collecting three in 2012-13, six in 2013-14 (tied) and four (tied) in 2014-15.
This year, the center has tallied 14 points (eight goals and six assists) in 17 games, with seven of those markers and five of the helpers coming in seven contests (Nov. 1-14).
The fan-voted 20th Anniversary Team will be honored during a pregame ceremony on Dec. 7 at Pepsi Center, prior to Colorado taking on the Minnesota Wild.