The Avalanche Win Big With a Great Player and Fan

JoeyCorrespondent IJune 26, 2009

MONTREAL, QC - JUNE 26:  Matt Duchene stands on stage after being picked number three overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Colorado Avalanche at the Bell Centre on June 26, 2009 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The only thing that Avs fans love nearly as much as the team for which they root is other Avs fans.

Tonight they got lucky; they got both.

"With the third overall selection in the 2009 entry draft, the Colorado Avalanche are proud to pick from the Brampton Battalion, Matt Duchene."

While the number "3" is an affront to many Avalanche fans' ears, the name Matt Duchene should prove much sweeter.  A true character player, classified by many as the type of person who can "light up a room," Matt Duchene is clearly a unique athlete.  A unique athlete who grew up idolizing Patrick Roy and Joe Sakic; the latter to whom he is often compared.

He is a bright, ingenuous, hard-working kid who put all of his intelligence and work-ethic into pushing himself to a high-level of play.  He is incredibly competitive and a great leader who has come from more obscure backgrounds than either Hedman or Tavares, but will end up in the same NHL star-ranks as either.

But his character isn't all that we should be excited about.  This is a truly great player.

He may not be as flashy of a stick-handler as Tavares or as imposing a defensive force as Hedman, but he certainly has an overall game with which neither compare.  This is not to say that neither Hedman nor Tavares are great players; Tavares will probably challenge Ovechkin for the Richard and Hedman may even challenge for the Norris. 

As great as both are, Duchene is a player who truly rules both ends of the ice.  He has electrifying speed—classified as the quickest feet in the draft, good puck-handling skills—he only put up one less point in the same 14 games in the playoffs as Tavares (20 to Tavares' 21), and an edge to his game that I would compare to David Jones' with a lot more finish.

To borrow a quote from Jeff Badger on the article "Will the First Overall Pick Please Stand Up," "Tavares will score a pile of goals in the NHL. Duchene will win Cups and Conn Smyths."

But what Avalanche fans should be excited to hear is they have back that magic wrist shot that they missed all last season.  This is a kid who watched the shot that could only be stopped by the bar for his childhood and sought to replicate it.  He did a great job, too, practicing in his yard for hours with a black net over his head to thwart the flies.

His shot has been compared to Joe Sakic's.  His edge and passing have been compared to Brian Trottier's.  His leadership and skating have been compared to Steve Yzerman's.  This is the kind of player that will unite a passing center in Paul Stastny with him, a scoring center, for a 1-2 punch on our depleted power play and offense as in the days of Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic.

Even better, Duchene will be sitting, learning in a locker room with Joe Sakic to hone his skills and Ryan Smyth to hone his edge.  Hedman has no one.  Tavares has no one.

There's no question that Tavares and Hedman are All-Star talents with amazing upside, but only Duchene possesses the combination of skills around which a team can effectively rebuild and contend.