The NHL announced this morning that Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene has been named to the 2016 All-Star Game in Nashville, Tennessee.
“I’m obviously excited,” Duchene said. “I got the call and kind of found out last night. It’s one of those things that I enjoyed last night, but at the same time [I’m] preparing for tonight’s game and continuing to focus on the task at hand here. It's a big honor, and I'm very happy to represent my teammates and my organization.”
Center - COL
Goals: 18 | Assists: 15 | Pts: 33
Shots: 108 | +/-: -2
The selection is another in a string of honors for the 24-year-old Avalanche veteran, who was also named the NHL’s first star for the week ending on Nov. 15—after posting eight points (four goals, four assists) in three games—and third star for the month of November—after recording 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in 14 games, pacing the entire league in goalscoring and breaking Colorado’s record for goals in November (10) set by Claude Lemieux
Duchene currently leads the Avs in points (33-tied), goals (18), power-play tallies (six), faceoff percentage (56.1), takeaways (26) and shooting percentage (16.7) for players with 50 or more shots. He has also skated in all 40 of the club’s games this season.
It is safe to say that he played his way into a spot, which is more exciting given the setting for the event.
“I love that town. It’s a lot of fun,” Duchene said of Nashville. “I’ve made trips there after the season with some friends, and I love listening to country music. The live music there is so great. There’s so many talented musicians, so it’s definitely a special place for me, and it’s pretty cool to be able to go do that.”
The 2016 All-Star Game will feature a new 3-on-3 tournament format, with four teams being comprised of players exclusively from each division. Duchene will join fellow Central Division talents Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars), Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Tyler Seguin (Stars), Vladimir Tarasenko (St Louis Blues), Jonathon Toews (Blackhawks), Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg Jets), Roman Josi (Nashville Predators), Shea Weber (Predators), Devan Dubnyk (Minnesota Wild), and Pekka Rinne (Predators).
“I haven't seen our final roster yet, but I have a pretty good idea who will be there,” Duchene said, grinning with the thought of all the probable line combinations. “I potentially could end up with a guy we’re playing tonight, Tarasenko. So that would be OK. I’d probably just pass to him as much as I could and let him fire it.
“The Central, obviously we have the top three scorers in the NHL. I haven’t even seen the roster yet, and I know they’re there. Obviously, with Seguin, Benn and Kane, those three guys, hopefully they bring their hot sticks with them to Nashville and hopefully we can get a win.”
This is Duchene’s second All-Star Game selection. The Haliburton, Ontario, native previously participated in the 2011 event in Raleigh, N.C., scoring a goal while also attempting the first penalty shot in All-Star history. Duchene, who turned 20 just two weeks before that exhibition, became the youngest Avalanche player to ever participate in an NHL All-Star Game and the second-youngest in franchise history behind Owen Nolan (19 years, 340 days in 1992).
“One of my favorite hockey experiences, just the whole weekend,” the forward recalled. “Just the whole experience; the different people you meet, the other guys on the other team you get to know and things like that. It’s exciting. It’s definitely a big honor to be a part of any time you get to go.”
This time it will be different. There’s more experience, more days in the game and years on the job that Duchene can use to stay focused on helping the Avs continue their climb up the Western Conference standings before he departs for Nashville.
“I’m very excited to go, but the first time I think I was over the moon,” he said. “It was so cool. It was my second year in the league. Now, it’s one of those things I’ve already mentally kind of put on the back burner until I get to Nashville and get to enjoy that part.
“There’s so much to focus on here.”
That doesn’t mean he can’t be a little enthused about what will certainly be another unforgettable experience.
“I think it’s going to be good. I think it’s going to be exciting,” said Duchene. “I think guys are going to be playing pretty hard. Obviously, there’s no hitting in 3-on-3, so it’s not really dangerous for anybody, which is great. I think the fans are going to really enjoy it, and I think we are too.”