NHL Draft Preview - Toronto Sun 20-June-2009

NAME: Matt Duchene

SIZE: 5-foot-11, 200 lbs.

Team: Brampton Battalion, OHL

08-09 STATS: 57 GP, 31-48-79

Unless the Vancouver Canucks are willing to trade up to a top-three draft position, the Matt Duchene-Cory Hodgson reunion tour is off.

It's a friendship born on a little driveway rink in Haliburton, Ont., where the two would cavort for hours while Matt's father Vince manned the garden hose before and after.

"We used to tease my dad and call him Walter (Gretzky) because of how dedicated he was to building the rink," Duchene laughed. "Cody and I have been buddies a long time. That rink was a huge part of my developing my skill. It wasn't very big, so I had to learn to do stuff in tight areas and I always had guys over to play some 1-on-1. You were getting quick feet and quick hands."

Duchene and Hodgson went on to the Brampton Battalion of the OHL and each has been a valued member of the national junior program. Duchene won three gold medals in eight months at under-18 competitions.

But thanks to Duchene's rising star at NHL Central Scouting, which ranked him the second-best overall skater to John Tavares, a happy West Coast reunion seems out the question.

Duchene, a 79-point centre, won't be sitting long after Tavares and Victor Hedman are taken and some wonder if Duchene isn't the more complete package than Tavares and might go higher.

"It's just great I was able to fill up my potential and get up there with those two," Duchene said. "It's something I didn't expect at all.

"I'm not an overly big or strong guy, I just try to be all-around and I love to show up for the playoffs. That's usually where I excel, in the OHL or in minor hockey. Hopefully, that's pretty attractive when it comes to being scouted by the NHL."

Hodgson's re-assignment by the Canucks, who picked him 10th in 2008, was Duchene's gain.

"He's been kind of a trailblazer for me, I've seen everything he has gone through," Duchene said. "It was a real family atmosphere this year, but really sad when (the Battalion's playoff run ended in the final against Windsor).

"It was great to share that experience with Cody. I would ask him questions about the next step and he was awesome, helping me early in the season with my consistency. (Battalion coach) Stan Butler also helped me round out my game."

Duchene played a role in the Canadian under-18 team's drive to a world championship, getting a chance to work with Pat Quinn.

"That's a highlight of my hockey career," he said. "I wasn't expecting to get picked for that roster and having Pat as coach was unbelievable. He's a knowledgeable guy who treats you like an adult."

E.J. McGuire of Central Scouting piled on the plaudits for the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Duchene in his final report:

"A pure offensive player who also is a great penalty killer. A pure sniper, he plays the point on the power-play and is a threat to score on the penalty kill as well. He reminds me, probably most of the new breed of snipers, Patrick Kane, Sam Gagner and Steven Stamkos, as he grows into his offensive position in the NHL."

Comparisons have also been drawn out a lot further to Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic. Duchene went through a boyhood phase of worshipping Sakic, Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg of the Colorado Avalanche.

Heading into the draft, the Avs are picking third.