Prospect Report: Dylan Duke
This past season, the USNTDP’s U17 team was one of the best in recent memory, and it could have been even better. Matt Beniers played with the U18’s all year, and Mackie Samoskevich, Matthew Coronato, and Matthew Knies were all (and still are) questionable omissions from the team. Scott Morrow would have been a nice piece on defense too. Regardless, they were loaded. Since the quarantine and pause hit, I’ve been able to go back and watch every U17’s game from this year, and this is one of the most fun teams I’ve ever watched. On the back end they were led by Luke Hughes, Sean Behrens, and Aidan Hreschuk, a trio of highly mobile offense oriented defensemen. Up front they boasted a lineup of Chaz Lucius, Jack Devine, Sasha Pastujov, Red Savage, Jeremy Wilmer, Justin Janicke, Jack Hughes (yes, there’s another very good one), and the subject of this report, Dylan Duke.
Duke finished the USHL season with 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points in 32 games, leading the U17’s in goal scoring. In a snapshot, he’s a very well-rounded and hardworking forward who’s primarily a winger but can play center. He kills penalties, consistently dictates play at 5 on 5, and contributes big on the power play. When watching him play this past year, I kept waiting for him to show some sort of weakness, but he never did. He’s the jack of all trades type of forward that’s highly coveted yet still sometimes undervalued in the NHL (aka Reilly Smith).
I’m going to test out a different format for this report, breaking down the player’s game into six different categories, and discussing each one. There’s skating, puck skills, shooting, vision, defensive play, and physical play. I was tempted to combine puck skills and vision as they overlap quite a bit when it comes to making plays, but you can have one and not have the other, so I decided to keep them separate. Please either comment below or tweet at me (@FSHockeycenter) to let me know whether to continue this format or not.
Duke isn’t a great skater, but it’s not a glaring weakness in his game. He skates slightly upright and doesn’t have an elite top speed, but owns some solid edges and has the agility needed to escape tight situations. He’s also very strong on his feet and not easily knocked over. Duke is a good enough skater that there’s nothing to worry about in that department.
Duke’s got a pretty solid pair of hands. He’s not going to pull off highlight reel dangles on a nightly basis, but his toe drag to release is damn good. The real value in Duke’s puck skills is his hand-eye coordination. He’s very good at deflecting pucks, shooting rolling pucks, and making split second reactionary moves:
His initial pass was blocked, but he instantaneously found the puck and put it through on the second attempt. Now back to the deflections and rolling pucks:
His ability to shoot bouncing/rolling pucks is one of his more valuable skills, and his one timer accuracy is among the top in the draft class because of this.
Duke’s shot is his best tool, bar none, and he knows it. He shoots nearly 4 times a game (via InStat Hockey) and averages 2 on net. His wrist shot release is so quick and powerful, and he can pick his spots at will. His aforementioned one timer isn’t super heavy, but it’s accurate enough that it doesn’t matter. Here’s some of Duke’s best snipes from this past season:
(this one’s shorthanded)
He’s going to be a goal scorer at the next level, barring a major play style change.
Even though Duke’s a sniper by nature, he sees the rest of the ice very well. He’s a smart and patient puck carrier, and will always take the time to survey all of his options. My favorite example of this is a rush he joined in a game against Youngstown:
It was a clear 3 on 2, with an option driving the net. A good chunk of players would have tried to force the seam pass, but Duke held up and noticed the wide open trailer. Here’s another great example of Duke’s decision making:
He held up again, checking to see if there was a trailer coming. When he realized there wasn’t, he zeroed in on the player driving the net and waited for the perfect moment before delivering that bullet pass. He’s also got the ability to make a gamebreaking pass:
Again, Duke is so well rounded that it’s hard to see him only contributing as a goal scorer throughout his career. He’ll rack up a good amount of assists as well.
At 5 on 5, Duke averaged 13 challenges and just over 2 takeaways per game (via InStat Hockey), and had an overall Corsi of 3.21. Combing through all of his game logs, it’s pretty tough to even find a loss in which he had a negative Corsi. Duke is a consistent and reliable forecheck and backcheck presence too, clogging up lanes and making it as hard as possible for the opposition to make plays. He was relied on heavily on the penalty kill, and performed tremendously. There were 11 games where Duke didn’t get any time on the penalty kill, only because the U17’s didn’t take any penalties in those 11 games. He plays with tons of energy and is always looking to disrupt passes with his stick. Sometimes he can get a little aggressive in the neutral zone, but it’s not without reason. He’s a fantastic player, and he wants the puck so he can go score, like this:
It’s safe to say that Duke won’t ever be labeled as a defensive liability, and will probably be regarded as the opposite.
Elite Prospects has him listed at 5’9 and 168 pounds, but he plays like he’s 6’1 and 190. He doesn’t really look 5’9 either so it could be an outdated number, but I doubt it for a top prospect playing with the NTDP. Regardless, his ability to withstand and fight through contact is impressive. He doesn’t shy away from playing the body in the corners, and would choose to push his way through a defender instead of cutting back in the other direction. He parks himself in front of the net quite a bit for a player with his offensive toolkit as well, and he can really hold his own there, leading to deflection and rebound opportunities like this one:
What I’m most impressed with is his ability to literally throw a much bigger player off of him, like this:
Remember, this is someone who’s supposedly 5’9 and 168 pounds. Just imagine how much scarier he’ll become as he gets bigger and stronger. These types of traits aren’t usually associated with players of his stature, so it’s a big plus that they’re a part of his game.
At this point, Duke is a complete lock in my top 20, close to a top 15 lock, and has a real shot at the top 10. He’s such a versatile player that I wouldn’t fault a team for reaching on him (a la Barrett Hayton in 2018). I’m excited to see how much his game has grown since the pause, whenever the NTDP resumes play.
Again, please let me know (@FSHockeycenter) how you feel about this new format.
Thanks for reading!