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Top Avalanche Picks Emerge on the Road

James CriderCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2009

SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 2: Matt Duchene #9 scores a goal off the pass by Chris Stewart #25 of the Colorado Avalanche past Goaltender Scott Clemmensen #30 of the Florida Panthers in the second period on December 2, 2009 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

At one point this season, Chris Stewart was in the minors and Matt Duchene was on an eight game goalless drought.

Lately, they're the Avalanche's best players.

The 18 year old Duchene and the 22 year old Stewart - mostly playing on the same line - carried the Avalanche through their road trip, the duo combining for 9 goals and 7 assists in only five games.

The timeliness of their breakouts - particularly Stewart's - can't be underestimated. With Hejduk injured most of the trip and David Jones out for the year, the Avalanche needed players to step up and it just so happened that those players were two of the Avalanche's former first round picks.

Watching the progression of hockey players is an interesting experience.

Up until about two weeks ago, Stewart was looking like a bust. His older brother was a bust, and Stewart looked like he would follow suit. He wasn't getting a whole lot of playing time, and wasn't doing anything other than dumping and changing whenever he was actually on the ice.

Duchene, on the other hand, looked a lot like Stamkos looked at the beginning of last year. He was getting thrown around, passing on shooting opportunities, and generally looking like he should have spent another season in the OHL.

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Then one day a switch comes on.

Since that day - a 3-0 shutout win against the Lightning - you may as well have changed the names on the back of their jersey's to Hull and Oates (no, they didn't grow 80's mullets).

Good things continue to happen for the Avalanche despite widespread injury, and it's looking more and more likely Matt Duchene will play in the Stanley Cup playoffs in his rookie season.

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