It goes without saying that Reid Duke’s season has entailed its share of obstacles on the last-place Lethbridge Hurricanes. It would have been easy for him to ask for a change of scenery just as several of his former teammates did, but the 18-year-old remained loyal to the organization that chose him with the fifth overall pick of the 2011 bantam draft.
“I knew that I should stick it out with the team for a lot of reasons,” says Duke, who was ranked 65th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting Service. “I sat down with my parents and agent and we all agreed that I should stay with the Hurricanes. They drafted me and they needed players to stick by them during this tough time. It was just the right thing to do – it’s important to stand by your team.”
Even though the 6-foot, 188-pound centre is only in his second season in the league, Duke took on a leadership role because of his team’s fragile situation.
“I felt the team needed me to be a leader with guys asking for trades and us struggling to win games,” says Duke. “I tried to help the older players lead and just help out the younger guys. It’s not easy to lose like we have, so I tried to be positive and just try to get other players to be positive.”
With hindsight vision, Duke sees the value in going through the Hurricanes’ dismal 12-53-2-3 record. He feels the tough season led to him growing as a person and gaining character.
“It’s not fun to go through, but you grow a lot as a person,” says the Calgary, Alta., native, who has two games left on the year as the Hurricanes play their last match on March 17 against the Medicine Hat Tigers. “You find ways to motivate yourself and you grow up because you need to play hard for not just you, but also your teammates. I know I grew a lot as a person and gained character and patience. I think I can take out a lot of positives from this year because of that.”
Duke’s stats don’t paint a very accurate picture on how well his season has gone. His 14 goals and 38 points in 60 games show he’s improved from his 24-point rookie season; however, his skill and talent suggests he would have notched north of 50 points if he was on one of the top-half teams in the league. In addition, his minus-45 plus-minus stat describes his team’s defensive play more so than his own. He’s still a work in progress in his own end of the rink, but he’s taken significant steps forward this year as a two-way player.
“I don’t think my stats show how much I’ve improved this year,” he says. “I worked hard to play better at my end of the ice and I thought I did a better job of generating offensive chances. But I’m not that worried about my stats. I try to just focus on working hard and not pay too much attention to personal stats.”
1. How would you describe yourself as a player?
“I think I’m a hard worker that has some good skill. I also think I’m a good skater that generates good offensive chances.”
2. Do you model your game after a player in the NHL?
“I think (Philadelphia Flyers centre) Claude Giroux is a good guy to model my game after. He’s a smart player that’s good at both ends. I try to play like him.”
3. Who’s your favourite NHL team?
“Being from Calgary, I cheer from the Flames just because I grew up watching them. But I also like watching the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks because they have a lot of skill and fun players to watch on their teams.”
4. What’s your favourite movie?
“I really like the movie Miracle. It’s just a great hockey movie that’s pretty inspiring.”
5. What type of music do you like to listen to before a game?
“I like old style country music. I’m into the light stuff – nothing too crazy. I’m not really into anything else.”
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen