CA Prospect Profiles: Mike Duco

Mike Duco mixes it up with his now teammate, Maxim Lapierre,
and his former junior teammate, Yannick Weber, in a pre-season game last year.
(September 26, 2010 – Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

Mike Duco’s very brief time in the Canucks organization has been interesting, to say the least. There was the trade that brought him to Vancouver, then there was his pre-trade comments about the Canucks on Twitter and the subsequent fallout once he arrived.

With the exodus of tough guys out of town, does Mike Duco have a spot waiting for him on the Canucks? Or will he literally have to fight his way into the lineup?

Mike Duco has a tremendous opportunity at the moment with Vancouver. This summer saw the departure of many noted "tough guys" from the Canucks organization with Tanner Glass and Raffi Torres moving on to different teams. Also, some of the teams main "rivals" stocked up on "enforcer" types – so the Canucks are likely to require a player willing to regularly fight. But not just fight… that player has to be able to play, as well. Luckily Mike Duco has proven that he’s willing to fight, and he’s proven that he can play.

Duco’s hockey career got off to a great start in junior. Playing for the Kitchener Rangers for four years, his junior career culminated in an OHL championship and a second place finish in the Memorial Cup. His 2007-08 Rangers team had a great group of future NHL’ers, including Yannick Weber, Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk, Nazim Kadri, and Mikkel Boedker, as well as the team’s leading scorer and fringe NHLer Justin Azevedo. That team, coached by Duco’s future NHL coach Peter DeBoer, absolutely dominated the OHL. Three times, the Rangers had winning streaks of 10 games or more. They ended the season with a +115! goal differential, and Duco was a big contributor to that – finishing with 32G 22A and 54 Pts. He also contributed physically, racking up 173 PIMs (ranked 7th in the OHL). That team was an excellent showcase for Duco’s blend of skill and physicality.

Duco had a steady career in junior scoring 20 goals, and racking up at least 40 points in all four of his OHL seasons. In the 2008 playoffs, Duco put up 16 goals and added 6 assists in only twenty games.

Despite his strong showing as a Junior, Mike Duco went undrafted. He attended several NHL training camps but always returned to junior. Finally, in September 2007, he signed a pro contract with the Florida Panthers. For the 2008-09 season, Duco joined the Rochester Americans (the Panthers’ AHL affiliate) and played the vast majority of his last three seasons there.

In AHL tenure – Mike Duco continued to do what he knows how to do: score a few goals and punch lots of faces

Season Age Team Lg GP G A PTS GC +/- PIM EV PP SH GW
2008-09 21 Rochester Americans AHL 68 14 14 28   -19 147 10 4 0 1
2009-10 22 Rochester Americans AHL 59 9 10 19   -4 111 6 3 0 2
2010-11 23 Rochester Americans AHL 67 20 11 31   -16 126 9 11 0 0
Career   3 Seasons AHL 194 43 35 78   -39 384 25 18 0 3

While his plus-minus stats jump out, keep in mind that in two of those three seasons, the Rochester Americans were a positively dreadful team. In both 2008-09 and 2010-11, the Americans finished dead last in their conference. Despite how poorly his team performed – Duco was a key contributor on the scoresheet, even netting 20 goals last year, good for fifth in team goal scoring. But a closer look at the numbers reveals that he may have been riding the percentages somewhat last season:

Mike Duco AHL shooting %      
Year SOG Goals Sh%
2008-09 112 14 12.5
2009-10 65 9 13.8
2010-11 122 20 16.4

Duco’s shooting percentage for his first two years was approximately 13%. Last season, it spiked to 16.4%. That’s more than a 3% increase in shooting percentage, which, usually tells us more about a shooter’s puck luck than their "goal scoring ability". We should probably be skeptical of those who would characterize Mike Duco as a guy likely to be a consistent 20-goal scorer in the AHL.

Let’s look at how his numbers would project over full 82 game seasons in both the AHL and the NHL.

Mike Duco NHL equivalency 2008-2011            
Year AHL Goals AHL Assists AHL Points Eq. NHL goals Eq. NHL assists Eq. NHL points
2009 16.88 16.88 33.76 7.43 7.43 14.86
2010 12.51 13.9 26.41 5.5 6.12 11.62
2011 24.48 13.46 37.94 10.77 5.92 16.69
Cumulative 53.87 44.24 98.11 23.7 19.47 43.17

Projected over a full 82-game season in the NHL, Duco would be expected to produce 7-8 goals and 6-7 assists, for 13-15 total points. So far, in 12 total NHL games played, Duco has not yet notched a single point, but has racked up 60 penalty minutes, including four fighting majors and three 10-minute misconducts.

Canucks fans clammering for a new pugilist in the mix will be excited by the presence of Duco. However, Duco is not a big guy and has marginal skill, even for an NHL fourth liner. He’ll also have a lot of competition at camp – and will have to beat out the likes of Byron Bitz, Mark Mancari, Victor Oreskovich, Steve Pinizzotto, Darren Archibald and Aaron Volpatti in order to make the team. All of them will be clawing for two roster spots as fourth line wingers, flanking Max Lapierre. With all that competition, the smallish Duco has his work cut out for him.

He may just have to let his fists do all the talking for him. Kinda like this. Although he might need to work on his technique. If getting revenge on Carcillo isn’t enough motivation, I’m not sure what is.