During his childhood days, Matt Duchene had a fistful of heroes. Among them was Joe Sakic of the Colorado Avalanche.
"I am a Montreal Canadiens fan, but I grew up really liking Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche as well," Duchene said. "He was kind of the guy that I liked before Sidney Crosby came along.
"Obviously, Sakic is still going strong in the NHL," said Duchene, a native of Haliburton, Ontario. "I think he's probably the biggest class act in the League. He's a great ambassador of the game as well."
The Colorado Avalanche made strides to bring the 18-year-old center together with Sakic by making Duchene their first-round draft choice and third overall pick in the National Hockey League 2009 Draft Friday night.
"You look in my room, and I have the jerseys of Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy and Peter Forsberg and I had an inkling they would draft me," Duchesne said. "When the time came, I started getting excited and my heart started pounding."
Duchene was drafted after the more publicized center John Tavares, who went to the New York Islanders and defenseman Victory Hedman was taken by Tampa Bay. Colorado director of amateur scouting Rick Pracey said Duchene was a late arrival because of a shoulder ailment that kept him out of the spotlight early in the year and out of the World Junior trial camp.
"I had a shoulder and was disappointed with that and just didn't have the camp I wanted," Duchene said. "That was the turning point of my year and I learned a lot from being cut from that team (at the World Junior Trial camp) and I learned how to be really mentally tough. And that's what got me here."
All that was wiped clean by a strong showing in the season. He had six game-winning goals this past year and directed the Brampton Battalion to the Ontario Hockey League final. He was sixth in the league playoffs with 26 points (14-12-26) and tied for first with six power-play goals.
"If I had one bad game or shift, I didn't get down on myself," he said. "I stayed confident, and that was the key."
NHL scouts liked his demeanor and the way he played on both ends of the ice.
"Matt Duchene is a pure offensive player who also is a great penalty killer," NHL Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire said. "He is a pure sniper, he plays the point on the power-play and is a threat to score on the penalty kill as well."
Duchene is already thinking ahead.
"I want to have good camps, the development camp in a couple of weeks and then in September with the Avalanche," he said. "I think I'm pretty ready and hopefully, I can get a spot of the team."
The draft continues with Rounds 2 through 9. The Avalanche own three of the top 49 selections, putting them in position to restock.
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