The Colorado Avalanche found their sensation to lead them into a new era. That is the hype around the youngest named captain in NHL history Gabriel Landeskog, who is now 20 after the lockout. However, before Landeskog won the rookie of the year award, there was center Matt Duchene, who looked like the Avalanche’s next superstar. An injury-filled season last year has left questions about whether Duchene can reach an elite level.
Duchene was the third overall pick in the 2009 draft behind John Tavares of the New York Islanders and Victor Hedman who went to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Duchene made an immediate impact on the ice, but struggled to score early in his rookie season. However, he ended up with 55 points, 31 of them goals during his first year, and the Avalanche made the playoffs. His second year was more promising; he scored 67 points and really controlled the ice. Then last year, a limited Duchene played only 58 games, and scored just 28 points.
Duchene has been the best player at training camp this year from all accounts. Now healthy, his play overseas appears to have translated at home after the lockout. The fourth year center has Landeskog as a wing, his successor as the up and coming superstar. While the two are good friends, there is no doubt that Duchene wants to match Landeskog as the face of the team.
The Avalanche are a team that cannot escape their past success. In their heyday, the Avalanche had a Swedish-Canadian dynamic duo of Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic. The Canadian, Matt Duchene, who turns 22 today, hopes that a partnership with Swedish captain Landeskog not only allows for a comeback year, but success for the Avalanche.
For Duchene to be successful, he must become a better finisher. He has great skill and a hard shot on the ice, but too often he hits the post or places the puck just within the goalie’s reach. While Landeskog’s ability has developed more quickly, the two look to have long careers with the Avalanche and either player could go down as the best Avalanche of the era. Duchene just signed a two-year contract for $4 million a year over the summer. He would love to boost that number, as the team’s superstar, when that deal expires.