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2023-24 Calgary Flames predictions: Walker Duehr plays full season in NHL and hits 40 points

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Photo credit:Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
9 months ago
There were very few things that gave fans of the Calgary Flames hope last season. When the defence had a good game, the goaltending didn’t; when the offence had a good game, the defence lacked; and most importantly, the team’s highest-paid players weren’t performing up to snuff. However, there was one player who brought some incredible energy into the bottom six, and unlike the Milan Lucics of the world (as much as I commend him for his service to the team), he had an above-average impact in almost every aspect of the game: Walker Duehr.

Prediction: Duehr plays a full season in NHL and hits at least 15 goals and 40 points

Duehr only played 27 games at the NHL level last season, but he made his presence felt not only in the scoresheet but with his physicality and energy as well. He provided a jolt for the bottom six, and fans knew that every night he would give the game his all. He spent most of his season in the AHL with the Calgary Wranglers, doing more of the same there, playing 41 games there and scoring 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists). He didn’t contribute any goals in the postseason, but he did add five assists in nine playoff games.
In those 27 NHL games, Duehr scored 7 goals and 4 assists for a total of 11 points, which over a full 82-game season is 33 points. For a second-year NHLer, that’s not a bad total at all. However, it’s important to remember the kind of players he was playing with. Lucic was, flat-out, not good at either end of the ice, and he was too slow most of the time to help create anything with Duehr. Trevor Lewis wasn’t entirely ineffective, specializing in defence, but his offence also lacked. It was Duehr who was looked at to create with the puck in the offensive zone.  But this season, with a system change and a potential for new linemates that could bring some more scoring prowess, we might get to see what kind of offence Duehr can produce.
Just to help with the narrative, here are some advanced analytics charts to look at that help represent the point. Below is Duehr’s regularized adjusted plus-minus (RAPM) chart via Evolving-Hockey. Those first three categories are purple, which means he was above average (and the difference between his GF/60 and xGF/60 isn’t big, which means he was scoring about as much as he should have or maybe a little more):
And here is his isolated impact via Micah Blake McCurdy (HockeyViz), showcasing via heatmaps where Duehr was getting his shots from and where they were coming from against him on the ice. Offensively, a plus-9% is very good, and his minus-1% on defence isn’t too shabby either.
 
As of now, per Daily Faceoff, Duehr is on the fourth line with Jakob Pelletier and Adam Ruzicka. The hope for many is that Pelletier will be in the top six, so in order to do that, we can swap him for Dillon Dube and everything still works. But I don’t think it should be a secret even with that change that Dube and Ruzicka are better options (at least offensively) than Lucic and Lewis. Add in the fact that Ryan Huska’s system could involve a focus more on offence, then we would have the perfect combination of a player with tons of energy, physicality, and eagerness to get to the net and score goals and a system that is designed around creativity, speed, and scoring goals.
Duehr likes to put the puck in the net, and if the Flames can get him going offensively like he was last season, he should be considered a serious threat in the bottom six. He does the little things right, and he makes fans want to tune in for games even though he might not be a Jonathan Huberdeau or Nazem Kadri or another high-end skill player. He’s an excellent culture fit, and he’s the perfect player to stick around for a full season and be successful next year.

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