Greg Sherman's first big splash as the newly appointed general manager of the Colorado Avalanche
was to make certain he got a difference-maker in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Sherman feels he did just that when he stepped to the podium on Friday evening and selected Ontario Hockey League standout Matt Duchene
with the No. 3 selection.
For Duchene, who grew up idolizing Colorado stars Patrick Roy
and Joe Sakic
, slipping on an Avalanche jersey was a dream come true.
"This is just unbelievable -- I keep looking down at this (Avalanche) logo and saying to myself, 'What the heck is this, this is some kind of dream,' " Duchene told NHL.com. "I don't even know what to think yet."
One thing is certain -- it's probably a good thing Duchene opted to play forward instead of following in the footsteps of Roy, one of his childhood heroes.
"When I was younger, I was a Patrick Roy
fanatic and I was almost a goalie because of how much I liked him," Duchene said. "I got road hockey pads every Christmas and I always said, 'I'll be Patrick Roy
', when we played at school. Joe Sakic
and Peter Forsberg
were also my idols and were guys I admired so much growing up. Getting a chance to play with Sakic or even just meet him is going to be an unbelievable experience."
Duchene, considered one of the stronger two-way offensive prospects in this year's draft, figures to fit in nicely up front with Ryan Smyth
, Milan Hejduk
, Paul Stastny
, Wojtek Wolski
and Marek Svatos
. The fact that the 39-year-old Sakic is nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career also factored into the Avalanche's decision to pick the 5-foot-11, 200-pound speedster despite pressing needs on defense and in goal.
"We're real excited to have a player like Matt -- he's a complete player right now and we're looking forward to what he can do coming into our camp next year," Sherman said. "I know our staff is excited. They've been calling Matt throughout the season and we're just really excited to have a player of his caliber joining our organization."
Duchene, who led the Brampton Battalion to the Ontario Hockey League final with 14 goals and 26 points in the postseason, followed forward John Tavares
and defenseman Victor Hedman
in the draft. Sherman, who served as the team's assistant GM the last seven years before earning the top job on June 3, is confident that he made the right choice.
"I think we looked for the best player available in the draft, and we certainly feel that Matt fit that profile," Sherman said. "We're a young team and we've been bringing in some players over the last two years and feel like Matt fits that profile as we move forward."
The No. 3 pick was the highest for the Avalanche since the team moved to Colorado prior to the 1995-96 season. The last time the team picked in the top three was 1991, when as the Quebec Nordiques, they took Eric Lindros
with the No. 1 choice. Prior to Friday, the franchise had selected among the top three only four times before, including 1988 (No. 3, Curtis Leschyshyn
), 1989 (No. 1, Mats Sundin
), 1990 (No. 1, Owen Nolan
) and '91.
"I want to make the (Avalanche) pretty bad," Duchene said when asked if he'd be ready to play in the NHL next season. "I think I'm ready. Obviously, I won't know until I get there as opposed to John (Tavares) and Victor (Hedman), who are both a year older than me and more seasoned. It all depends on what Colorado thinks. I have a great place back in junior (with Brampton) and if I'm back there I wouldn't be opposed to that either."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com