There were not a lot of positives to take out of the 2016-17 season for the Colorado Avalanche. Their record of 22-56-4 was the worst in the NHL. Almost everyone, across the board, had a down year.
Center Matt Duchene was no exception. A season after netting 30, he scored only 18 goals. His 41 points were the second worst mark of his career. There was one area however, he excelled. In fact, he was the best in the entire NHL.
“It’s a game within the game; it’s pretty interesting,” Duchene told Mile High Sports. “It’s an important part of the game. I enjoy taking draws, I always have. It’s something I’ve always put a lot of emphasis on.”
Duchene won an astounding 62.6 percent of his draws last season, beating known faceoff aficionado Antoine Vermette by 0.3 percent. By the end of the campaign, teams were probably happy when he was moved out to the wing, but there were certainly aware of Duchene’s prowess at the dot.
“As the season went along, you noticed guys bearing down a lot more and really trying a lot; so it’s been even harder to stay there,” Duchene said of being the best. “You can just tell guys know what you’re doing, or they’re working on it during pregame skate. It’s kind of funny how it works. That’s something that I’ve been trying to keep ahead of the curve on. I’ve been mixing it up, throwing in little curveballs.”
Duchene’s success in the faceoff circle isn’t exactly a new development. In fact, it’s been a point of emphasis for a few years now. Last season, he might been tops, if it wasn’t for a late slump.
“Last year, I was top-3, I think,” he said. “I was 57 percent last year [note: he won 57.9 percent] . I fell like two percent in my last 5-6 games. I had some rough games at the end.”
Just because he has emerged as an elite faceoff man doesn’t mean Duchene is satisfied. This summer, he will be back in his gym in Ontario, or at a nearby rink 15 minutes away, trying to hone his craft.
“It’s something you can always get better at,” he said. “I think I’m a student of the game, it doesn’t matter what aspect.”