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Catching Up With Matt Duchene

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
There’s not much that hasn’t been said about Matt Duchene. As an 18-year-old, the forward gained a spot on the Avalanche’s roster last season and went on to produce 55 points (24g/21a) while also earning a nomination for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Duchene has been hard at work all summer in preparation for his sophomore campaign.

We caught up with him recently to chat about his rookie season, his summer training regimen and how he fared on a father-son fishing trip.

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Let’s talk about your first NHL season. I have to assume it was the longest of your career to this point. Did you hit the proverbial “rookie wall” at any point?
“I actually felt better as the year went on. I usually do; I feel like I take a step as the year goes by. I felt I had more energy and was in better shape as the year went on, so that was really positive. I really enjoyed last year. I played 101 games from the time I started playing exhibition games with Brampton to my last game with Canada against Russia at the World Championship. It was a lot of games and I counted them all up. I was curious one time, so I checked it out.”

What’s the biggest lesson you learned last season that you can apply to next year?
“No matter what, just have confidence and play my game. If I’m having a bad game or a tough stretch where I’m not scoring, I can’t let my confidence waver. I really improved on that last year. I kept a really good, even keel, where in years past I might have been really down at times. Last year I wasn’t up and down. It wasn’t too much of a roller coaster ride emotionally. I still have room to grow in that area, and if I continue to grow I’ll just be playing better hockey all the time.”

Was that confidence there early in the season, even when you weren’t scoring as much as you wanted?

“I still had confidence. That was one of those times when I was able to take that step and stay even-keeled. I felt I was playing good hockey and was still contributing to the team. I was hard on myself when I wasn’t scoring, because I’m an offensive guy and when I’m not scoring there’s a big part of my game that’s left out. The coaches and the guys told me to relax, they said I was playing fine, and was contributing no matter what, so that’s a positive for sure.”

How long did you wait to get back into the gym or onto the ice after your season ended?
“I went to Germany (for the World Championship) right after, so I had another three or four weeks there playing hockey. When I got back home, I took just one week off and then started again. I’ve taken a couple chunks off here and there during the summer to rest up and make up for that, but I’m the type of guy who can’t sit still. I have to be doing something.”

Other than your training regimen, how has the summer been treating you? Have you taken any trips or done anything interesting?
“I did one of the most fun things I’ve done in a long time. My dad and I went on a father-son fishing trip up north in Ontario, about six hours north of where I live. There were 13 of us – one of my friend’s dads didn’t come – but it was just a local group of guys I had grown up with. We went up north to one of my buddy’s camps. We caught 41 walleye in two days. The first day we only caught two, the second day we caught 39. That was amazing.”

Any big catches?
“They weren’t overly big. We caught a bunch of pike too. I probably caught a few five- or six-pound pike. For the walleye, I’d say two and a half pounds, probably. There was no power or cell phone service up there. It was just you and the backwoods, so it was fun.”

Have you made any adjustments to your training methods this summer? A lot of younger players we talk to often realize they have to switch things up after their first season in order to get stronger or faster.
“There have been some little mechanical things. I think for the most part I’m really happy with my strength, my speed and things like that. It’s just a matter of getting better in all areas. I don’t think there’s one particular area that I need to drastically improve, but if there was one it would be flexibility. That’s something I’ve improved on already this summer and I’m very happy with that. Also, just some small mechanical things like improving my posture and my torso flexibility. I’ve gotten a lot stronger. I feel almost to the point where I would be at the end of the summer.”

What exactly are you doing to achieve that? Are you taking yoga classes, or something along those lines?
“I’ve done yoga in the past, but to be honest it didn’t do anything for me. You have to be pretty flexible to start in order to do yoga, but I just couldn’t get my body into the stretches. What I did this year was talk to my trainer. She trains a bunch of athletes and we talked about it and thought maybe doing a stretch class for one hour, three times a week, before or after dinner was something that would be positive to do. I haven’t been to all of them, just because different things have come up, but I’ve made it a priority. I usually stretch for half an hour after every workout anyway, so now I’m getting, throughout a week, probably almost six hours of stretching.”

All that being said, I can only imagine you’re expecting bigger and better things this season, both for yourself and your team.
“Last year was a good starting point for me, because obviously it was my first season. I think there is no way this team should go anywhere but up. We have a team this year that could really compete. We have to use what we have, use our young legs, our enthusiasm, our energy and our togetherness as a team. This is one of the most tight-knit groups that I’ve ever been a part of. If we do that and stay loose and play hard, we’re going to be fine.”
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