The 2013-14 season was a career year for center Matt Duchene. The Haliburton, Ontario native posted career highs in assists, points and game-winning goals for the resurgent Avalanche. And despite missing 11 games, Duchene's 70 points and 47 assists set the pace for a high-scoring Colorado offense that had the fourth highest goals-per-game average (2.99) in the league last season.
The young playmaker improved on his 2012-13 scoring pace—up to .986 points per game after posting a .915 average the year before—and is quickly becoming the consistent offensive force that helped make him the third overall pick in the 2009 draft. That consistency every game was something Duchene was looking to achieve entering the 2013-14 campaign after he scored 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) in 47 games in 2012-13.
“I think just the experiences that I’ve had in the past four years are going to continue to help me improve and be the best player I can be,” Duchene told the NHL Network before the season. “I think this is a big turning point for this organization. I think you’re going to start seeing the Avalanche playing deep into the spring and summer months.”
He was right.
Colorado's turnaround last season was rapid, and Duchene was also able to knock out some career milestones during the year as well. On Oct. 15 against the Dallas Stars, Duchene scored two goals to move his career-point total to 200. He would finish the season with 263 career points and is one of three players from the 2009 NHL Draft to amass at least 200 points, with John Tavares and Evander Kane being the others.
Duchene would go on to collect his 100th career goal against the New York Islanders on Feb. 8 in another two-goal game. He and Tavares are the only members of the 2009 draft class to have reached the century mark.
His career year went a long way in helping him make Team Canada and win a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The winning atmosphere from his experience in Sochi is something Duchene brought back to the Avalanche after the Olympic break.
He helped the team secure its first division title since 2003 and the right to host a first-round playoff series versus Minnesota. Duchene would miss the first five games of the playoffs after sustaining a knee injury in late March, but he returned in Game 6 and went on to post three assists in the final two games of the series. It was Duchene's first playoff appearance since his rookie season (2009) when the Avs lost to the San Jose Sharks in a close six-game series.
It's often said that losing is a chance for a team to learn and grow. However, losing is not easy.
"It's heartbreaking," Duchene told NHL.com after Colorado's overtime loss in Game 7 to Minnesota, "but I guess you have to take a learning experience out of it."
Duchene has proved to be a quick learner since breaking into the NHL, and now that he and the young Avs have had a taste of the postseason, they'll look to play deeper into the summer months.