Photo Credit: Rena Laverty
The son of former Western Michigan University standout Steve Duke, USNTDP center Dylan Duke is a talented prospect for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Duke is a solid, goal-scoring center/winger who despite his size, can certainly bring a physical, net-front presence night in and night out.
A USA/Canada dual citizen, Duke hails from Strongsville, Ohio, and grew up playing his minor hockey for highly regarded Detroit-area programs, in Belle Tire (13U) and Compuware (14U, 16U). While at Compuware, Duke made somewhat of a name for himself, scoring 24 goals and 23 assists for 47 points in only 20 games during his 14U season.
While serving as team captain for Compuware in his 16U season, Duke continued his noteworthy all-around play, potting 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points in 19 games. The following season, Duke began play with the USNTDP, seeing time with both the U17 and U18 squads, where he was just shy of averaging a point per game.
Thus far in 2020/21, Duke’s game has made great strides improvement wise, as he’s racked up 25 goals and 19 assists for 44 points in 43 games. Not only has his point production been a joy to follow, he’s also added a decent amount of size to his frame, aiding his gritty style of play in all zones on the ice.
For the 2022/23 season, Duke committed to the University of Michigan, where he’ll suit up for a very talented Wolverines squad. In Ann Arbor, he’ll hone his game under Head Coach Mel Pearson, who will have an abundance of talent at his disposal over the next couple of seasons. Duke could potentially join the likes of Matthew Beniers, Owen Power, Kent Johnson, Luke Hughes, Mackie Samoskevich, Thomas Bordeleau (San Jose Sharks prospect), Brendan Brisson (Vegas Golden Knights prospect), Ethan Edwards (New Jersey Devils prospect) and Johnny Beecher (Boston Bruins prospect), which will certainly benefit him in his development.
D.O.B – March 4, 2003
Nationality – USA
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Height – 5’10”
Weight – 181 lbs.
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
Duke’s Style Of Play
Dylan Duke plays a versatile, hard-nosed game which will more than likely translate quite well at the next level. He’s just as reliable standing in the opposing team’s crease looking for a loose puck as he is pinching down in the defensive zone, to lend his defensemen a helping hand. Duke’s 200ft game is hard not to appreciate, considering he is an absolute workhorse all over the ice.
While Duke doesn’t necessarily excel at any specific aspect of the game, he is slightly above-average at almost everything. His never-quit attitude and his relentlessness whilst hounding opponents in all three zones arguably stand out the most when looking at his game.
Duke can be counted upon to do his job every shift, whether it be in a penalty killing role, on the power-play, or simply just generating offense at even strength. His offensive output is very strong for a forward who sees a hearty amount of his points come from the low slot/crease area.
Duke is also quite good in transition, as he possesses the required agility and speed to effectively change direction and engage into the forecheck/backcheck depending on the situation.
Let’s take a more in-depth look:
Duke’s skating is perhaps the most notable aspect of his game that could use a little polishing. He tends to have more of an upright skating stance, but it isn’t a huge area of concern, as he possesses the agility and edgework needed to escape opponents when required. Duke also doesn’t boast an abundance of explosiveness, but once again, he has enough to get by. Duke’s stride has definitely progressed as this season’s gone on, as he has shown a much more wider stride, allowing him to generate more speed and balance.
His best attribute skating wise is his durability/balance on his skates. Duke can take a beating infront of the net and still manage to keep his balance relatively easy, which bodes well for how he projects at the next level.
Pretty much everywhere Dylan Duke has laced up the skates, the offensive production has followed. He’s produced at, or very near to, a point-per-game average dating back to his days with Belle Tire 13U, right up to this season with the U18’s.
As mentioned above, Duke scores the vast majority of his points in front of the net. In fact, only five of his 44 points this season are secondary assists, meaning he’s usually the one banging home the spare change, or passing it to someone who buries it.
Duke’s shot is probably the thing to love the most about his offensive talent. He seems to have little issue in putting his wrist shot wherever he desires, with an above average amount of accuracy.
Duke’s also not afraid to put a puck on net from pretty much anywhere in the offensive zone. He can also distance himself from the defender when needed, and often can force opponents into a penalty trying to keep him from getting on goal.
Duke’s defensive game is arguably one of the most NHL-ready as far as forwards are concerned, in the entire 2021 class. He demonstrates an excellent ability to back-check, and has zero issue digging deep in the corners to create defensive zone turnovers. Duke’s active stick in the corners allows him to poke-check attackers and regain control of the puck quite often. Duke’s also not afraid to take a hit in order for his teammate to pick up the puck and engage a breakout, which I’m sure many NHL scouts would appreciate.
An underrated aspect of Dylan Duke’s game is his ability to effectively kill penalties. He’s quite capable of winning faceoffs, obtaining possession of the puck and ragging it to kill time. Not only can he do those tasks quite well, he often forces turnovers in the neutral zone while defending opposing team zone entries, and those usually lead to quality shorthanded chances.
As previously mentioned, Duke isn’t necessarily a master of any specific trait, however, he is above average at almost every aspect. That being said, there are a few areas of his game which could use some work. For starters, Duke’s shot release is a tad slow, which could prove to be a drawback at the next level. As players get more talented and larger in size, Duke will need that quicker release to get the most out of his accurate wrist shot. He could look to develop this trait in the coming seasons, and should see his goal output increase alongside.
Another aspect of Duke’s game that he may look to improve on is his patience when it comes to shooting the puck from anywhere in the offensive zone. While it’s an awesome trait to have, some of his game film had him missing the net completely from angles that were either impossible to hit, or had a large amount of bodies along the trajectory of the shot. Duke could look to put himself in more open space to release a shot, or could look to seek out a teammate for a better opportunity to get a puck on net.
Lastly, Duke could use some improvement when it comes to his explosiveness with the puck on his stick. As it stands now, his skating is at an average level. However, if Duke is looking to translate his game as best as possible at the next level, it will require that explosiveness to help beat defenders out wide. Not only will it help him in terms of offensive production, it will make Duke more difficult to shut down and defend against when forechecking.
There is a lot to like about Dylan Duke’s game, and if he can continue to work on the little things as he progresses in his development, there’s a real strong opportunity for him to become a solid NHL player who can be relied upon anywhere on the ice.
Dylan Duke projects as a top 9 forward, best suited on the wing, who can provide a dominant net-front presence, and can probably net 45-50 points per season at the NHL level. That being said, there’s a little bit of his game that can use some fine tuning, which will definitely come as he transitions to the NCAA with the Michigan Wolverines. Teams should absolutely fawn at how developed his defensive zone game is at just 18 years old, and his offensive production has been constant at every level he’s played at.
The 2021 NHL Draft has a few “diamond in the rough”-caliber prospects in the late First, early Second round range, and Duke is certainly at the top of that list. Teams that are selecting in the 20-35 range, and are looking for that scrappy, “jack of all trades”-style forward, look no further than Dylan Duke.
Brendan Gallagher – RW, Montreal Canadiens
Watching film on Dylan Duke, it’s almost as if you’re watching footage on Brendan Gallagher from his Vancouver Giants days. Both Duke and Gallagher are a pain to play against, and have zero issues standing in front of the opposing goalie, trying to knock loose pucks home.
Both Duke and Gallagher have a similar story, as both were relatively undersized forwards who play the game of a much larger player. Duke and Gallagher are also very capable defenders, and obtain the majority of their offense in the low slot. When it comes to forechecking, Duke and Gallagher are relentless and have no problem sacrificing themselves to make a play.
If the team who chooses to select Duke at this summer’s Entry Draft can develop his game into the same style of player Brendan Gallagher is, there’s no doubt that team will be grinning from ear to ear with their selection.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Paul Zuk. If you would like to follow Paul on Twitter, his handle is @paulzuk_81.
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