The Calgary Flames have kept their heads above water since their 8–2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on March 20. Since then, the Flames have gone 3–1–0 while outscoring their opponents 14–7 and closing out a revenge victory against the Kings on Tuesday night, winning 2–1 in a statement victory that saw the team play some of its best hockey in the last month.
A large part of the team’s ability to stay in a wild card race these last few games can be credited to 25-year-old South Dakota product Walker Duehr. Duehr has emerged as one of the most noticeable players on the ice to fans over the course of the last two weeks and has had a statistical explosion. Let’s take a look at what’s making Duehr an X-Factor on the Flames’ fourth line.
Duehr’s on-ice performance
Starting off simple, the Flames forward has blown his average point production out of the water the last two weeks. Leading up to the March 14 game against the Arizona Coyotes, Duehr had three goals and two assists in 18 games while averaging just over 1.5 shots a game.
Since March 14, his last six games have been on a different level. Duehr has three goals and two assists while averaging 2.9 shot a game. This is a marked offensive increase and has him playing at almost a point-per-game pace as of late. Sustainable or not, this has helped the Flames win games they needed to win.
Duehr has been injected on the fourth line predominantly playing alongside Milan Lucic and Trevor Lewis. This isn’t exactly a line expected to generate a tone of offence, but Duehr is finding a way to make an impact for the Flames.
Although Duehr has been producing offensively at an impressively high clip lately, his production on the stat sheet isn’t the only reason there’s so much talk about him.
The young forward has been the physical embodiment of what the Calgary Flames need their whole team to play like down the stretch. He’s been a jolt to the fourth line, and even more for the entire lineup. His level of competition and hustle has been easily identified.
Duehr stands out every time he touches the ice. He shows off his big frame, long stride with quickness, and good hands in tight positions with the puck. He’s never been a offensive threat—not even a top-six player going back to his days at Minnesota State in the NCAA—but he’s showing that he can play the game the right way when the team needs him to.
He’s burst onto the scene the last two weeks as a modern day fourth line dream. Duehr’s play has steadily improved as the season progressed, and it seems as though he’s found his stride—a hot streak at the perfect time for a player who has worked to earn it.
Looking forward for Duehr
Although Duehr’s been hot of late, it doesn’t mean he’s going to shape up to be the next Zach Hyman. There’s potential for a great bottom-six forward in Duehr, who’s looking to earn himself a contract in the offseason.
Duehr has the potential to earn a multi-year deal and look to grow into his role with the Flames. Former Flame Garnett Hathaway is a good comparison of what Duehr could become. The two are almost identical in listed height and weight at 6’3” and 210lbs respectively. Beyond their stature the two players share a similar skill set with good skating ability and hustle. Both gritty players that specialize on the half wall and in the corners.
Simply, Duehr is an energy player. Players that are built for playoff runs. If the 2022–23 Boston Bruins want a player like Garnett Hathaway, then the Flames already have theirs.
A look at 2023–24
In the nearer future it’s interesting to discuss what a fourth line could look like next season. It’ll likely be without Lucic and Lewis, and can open up room for more young prospects to take the next step.
The Calgary Wranglers have been dominant all season and have great odds to win the Calder Cup. With great farm teams usually come great prospects.
Jakob Pelletier, Walker Duehr, Adam Ruzicka, Connor Zary, Jeremie Poirier, and Dustin Wolf are AHL products with high ceilings that the Flames will likely have in the lineup at some point next season either permanently or by call-up basis.
Duehr – Zary – Ruzicka sounds like a good fourth line to start the year with an absence of “LuLew.”
Whatever direction the team decides to go it will be great to see an undrafted player who’s worked hard all the way up through the ranks continue to develop his career at the next level.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire