Hello my name is… Tyler Duke
|Team: USNTDP||Position: LHD|
|Height/Weight: 5'9, 179lbs||Birthdate: 2004-07-19|
|Season Stats||GP-22 G-1 A-4 P-5|
Attributes To Like:
This is just an all-around sweet breakout from the U18s against a good college team– confident, quick passes under pressure for a clean exit. Tyler Duke starts this off with exceptional awareness of the forecheck: he recognizes that all three forecheckers have committed low to the strong side, and so he switches the play back towards the weak side.
Duke gets full value on his shoulder checks, assessing the whole situation and gathering important information on the position of the forecheck. A look before he picks up this puck tells him that he has time in the corner to get the puck facing up ice, then he picks his head up again and notices all three forecheckers cheating towards the middle– so he cuts back to the outside and makes the breakout look easy. This patience and awareness is a beautiful thing.
This type of intelligence can make a forecheck look absolutely ineffective. Duke sees F1 coming around the other side of the net, so he stops up and begins to go back the other way. That draws F2 off the wall, which means his winger is wide open. It’s a numbers game– force two opponents to respond to one player, and there will be open players elsewhere– and Duke is intelligent enough to understand it.
He sees the forecheck overcommitting to the wall, so he curls and breaks out with no resistance up the middle. Hockey is that easy, apparently.
And this is just incredible poise: Duke already has a forechecker on his back and has another one meeting him on the other side of the net. His winger is slow to get in position on the wall, so Duke has no safety valve. Problem solved– he just splits the two forecheckers while dodging a knee, creating an odd-man rush the other way.
2. Fast Pace
Duke plays fast and he’s committed to always moving his feet with the puck on his stick. That forces the forecheck to move around and can create a lot of space to advance the play forwards. The typical play here is to not even consider skating and look to hit a forward immediately after receiving this D-to-D pass, but Duke immediately accelerates the pace, carries the puck up the wall, and creates a passing lane to the neutral zone.
He retrieves this puck and immediately turns it up ice, catching the opposing team out of shape and prompting an easy breakout the opposite way. Pace creates space, and Duke takes advantage of space that wouldn’t be present if he had taken the puck all the way back behind his net.
The speed and urgency that Duke moves the puck up the ice with creates counterattack opportunities for his team.
Duke is only 5’9”, but he’s an aggressive defender that loves to initiate contact and manages to hit well above his weight class. Rather than shying away from contact, Duke embraces physicality and looks to engage with larger players on his own terms rather than allowing them to hit him.
Initiating contact with this forward as the puck gets chipped by him allows Duke to slow down the forecheck and create time for himself to go back and make a play on the puck.
Duke is so aggressive defending this rush, stepping up on the pass recipient and stamping out what looked like a promising rush opportunity for the opposing team.
That aggressive defensive mentality causes quick turnovers and often prevents the offence from generating anything at all. Duke aggressively leaves the netfront to challenge the puck carrier leaving the corner and effectively plays the body, causing a change of possession.
He’s 5’9” hitting like this!
Rest Of Season Outlook:
It could prove difficult for Duke to command attention as an undersized puck-moving defenceman without a significant influence on the box score, but he’s been very strong in a transition-oriented role so far this season. Increased powerplay time could potentially be a vessel for increased draft stock, but Seamus Casey and Ryan Chesley stand in Duke’s way. Expect Duke to be a second or third round pick in the NHL draft, but he could provide excellent value in that range for a team that recognizes his transition skill.
Hello my name is… Jack Hughes
|Team: Northeastern University||Position: LHC|
|Height/Weight: 6'0, 165lbs||Birthdate: 2003-11-02|
|Season Stats||GP-18 G-5 A-4 P-9|
Attributes To Like:
Utilization Of Space
Hughes is a fascinating entry creator, often bringing the puck towards defenders and then playing the puck into the space that he has just created. His puck skills and execution are still raw, but the creativity and intelligence of Hughes’ entries are promising.
He loves to move towards the middle, bringing the defenceman with him, and then drop the puck back towards where he just came from.
And this is a cool play, even though it doesn’t come all that close to working. He stops up, bringing the defensive line forwards, then lays a long backhand pass towards a linemate streaking at the net.
This ability to manipulate space is a really cool thing for an NCAA freshman to look comfortable doing, and he deserves some leniency for rough execution given his age and environment.
2. Puck Skills
Hughes has excellent hands. This is a ridiculously cool play– he makes two moves, smoothly whips the puck up onto his blade, and very nearly pulls off the Michigan. Instead, he’s rewarded with a sick assist.
He loves to take defenders on one-on-one, and while that strategy comes with its fair share of turnovers, Hughes often is able to go through defenders and create tons of space to attack.
Just utterly removes this defender from the play, creating a line to the slot.
Look at him get to the net:
This drag move lets Hughes smoothly change direction and move into a huge pocket of space right in front of the opponent’s net. That’s a great chance that is enabled by his puck skills, even if the defence looks lax.
In the NCAA this season, his puck skills have continued to be a strength, but his execution is just a little bit off. That’s typical for a player his age in college hockey. He manages to get this puck off the wall and into the slot for a chance, but it isn’t as smooth as it might have looked against NTDP competition last year.
This is a sweet move at the line, but the execution making a play out of the move isn’t there.
It would be surprising if Hughes wasn’t struggling a little bit to execute his thoughts at this age at this level. High-level NCAA prospects generally dominate junior, then come into the NCAA and struggle to get used to the level. Expect Hughes’ execution to improve in his sophomore year and a more consistent influence on the box score to follow.
3. Defensive play
Hughes is playing centre as an NCAA freshman and does not look out of place at all defensively. He plays a patient but opportunistic defensive game, happy to sit back and support his defencemen but quickly jumping into action when he sees an opportunity to win the puck.
Hughes is there to support his defenceman, who gets tied up with an opposing player. He separates the puckcarrier from the puck and his team starts the breakout.
The centre arrives on the backcheck and occupies the slot area as both his defencemen commit below the goalline. Crucially, he keeps his head on a swivel and identifies a BU player arriving to the offensive zone late– he gets his stick in the lane and disrupts the pass.
Hughes is supporting his defenceman in the corner on this play, but doesn’t immediately jump in when the puck arrives. Instead, he takes away the offensive player’s cut-back route and forces a turnover when the attacker tries to escape the defenceman.
On this play, he supports his winger as he occupies a passing lane towards the slot. But when he sees the puck carrier handling the puck in a vulnerable position with his head down, Hughes abandons the passing lane to aggressively pursue the puck, forcing a turnover.
Rest Of Season Outlook:
Hughes looks like a late first round pick at this stage in time. Middling execution has prevented him from really excelling in a way that could move him up draft boards, but Hughes is doing quite well for an NCAA freshman all things considered. It likely won’t be until the 2022-23 season that Hughes’ role expands and he grows into the contributor that he shows signs of becoming for Northeastern.