Dylan Duke will be looking to carve a niche for himself as he enters his second season with the University of Michigan, not only as a hard-working, physical, two-way center, but also as a net-front scorer. And entering his second season in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s system, he’s been given worthwhile hype with this ranking of 14th overall. In an organization that’s won championships with undersized centers, I don’t think anyone should much care which shelf he can reach at the grocery store because this kid is tough.
Dylan Duke is a 19-year-old young center prospect in the Lightning system after being drafted in the fourth round in 2021. A tough customer in the slot despite his size, Duke has developed a number of skills that help him stay in dangerous areas in the middle of the ice in order to get better chances to score.
Duke was top 10 in scoring among his draft class in the NCAA last season. While he is behind the top picks like Matty Beniers and Kent Johnson — and behind revelations like Matthew Knies (only just) — you would expect Duke to get more ice time as the stacked Michigan graduated several players, including Beniers, Owen Power, and possibly Johnson too.
I think a lot of his deflated scoring last season came from being pushed down the lineup in his first year in the NCAA in a star-studded team. In his age-18 season with the USNTDP, he was second in scoring with 29 goals and 49 points in 50 games. According to Dobber Prospects and their stats, Duke got four fewer minutes a night playing in the NCAA vs with the USNTDP, that’s a gap usually seen between the first and third lines. With this in mind, I fully expect Duke’s numbers to go back up after this down year with less playing time.
And while Michigan will still have Mackie Samoskevich and Luke Hughes on defense, Duke will be a more prominent player for them, likely as a top-six center. That’s where I would still expect Duke to head towards as he develops in college while the Lightning keep a close eye on him. While it would be great if he became so excellent the Lightning were ready with an NHL spot right away, I think it’s more likely Duke will get his four years in the NCAA, and graduate hopefully as a tweener between the NHL and AHL right away as he tries to carve out a role. This is what I think Samuel Walker would’ve done if he had not chosen Minnesota instead.
All About the Jersey collected a whole series of scouting reports from people who have seen Duke play last year before he was drafted. I think they all give a very clear and consistent view of Duke, namely as someone with the DNA of the Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman, and Barclay Goodrow third line of the Championship seasons. Not trying to put pressure on the kid, but he fits the bill nicely, let’s see how much upside he has and if he’s a Gourde or a Ross Colton.
While looking at all the highlights of Duke from last season that I could find, it becomes very clear where Duke is when he’s creating plays and finishing them. His back is to the defender, his stick is clear, and he’s ready to turn off his check and get into the weak space on the other side.
Nifty between the legs pass by Johnson for Power at the point and Duke finishes it off! pic.twitter.com/VFmxapQGpW— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) November 28, 2021
Dylan Duke with his 4th goal of the season! Mackie Samoskevich and Johnny Beecher with the assists pic.twitter.com/alDGullFZ3— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) January 22, 2022
Dylan Duke discusses the opportunity to play against his brother Tyler tonight at Yost pic.twitter.com/9YpLpL1lFa— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) February 3, 2022
Dylan Duke bats in a power-play goal pic.twitter.com/xAlrrxFzy9— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) February 13, 2022
Duke scores with assists from Pasta and Truscott pic.twitter.com/9iIfDaTxde— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) February 19, 2022
Dylan Duke #46 and Frank Nazar III #21 pic.twitter.com/IlW9LVGQF5— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) July 26, 2022
I found it very amusing that both the writers and the readers ended up putting Dylan Duke 14th overall in their rankings and as a result he ended up #14. Looking at our official list, he’s definitely at the head of the “relative unknowns” pack of players and at the moment behind the group of well-known players and prospects to come.
Bringing in my rankings where I had him 10th, while I didn’t have him as high as Geo, I felt like the lack of headlines for him didn’t affect my perception considering what I’ve seen and what I know about his game. I put him above some draft picks who were ranked higher and had some expectations, and ahead of some players who might have an easier time making it into the NHL but whom I think will find it hard to stick there at all. I see an NHL player in Dylan Duke; someone who doesn’t need to score to be effective, who will get every ounce out of the system, and will play with the identity the Tampa Bay Lightning love. He is my top prospect from the Lightning in the 2021 draft.
What do you see as Dylan Duke’s NHL ceiling?
30 goals, 60 points
20 goals, 50 points
15 goals, 40 points
Fourth line production
He’s too small to make the NHL (aka I’m not a Lightning fan)