Staying at home suits Brendan Duke just fine.
Whether it’s providing a steadying defensive presence on the Halifax Mooseheads’ blue-line, or living with his parents in Cole Harbour, the 18-year-old couldn’t be happier with how things have played out since being traded by the Quebec Remparts in January.
“I’m playing a lot more here than I was in Quebec,” said Duke, who missed three months with the Remparts because of a shoulder injury.
“Between that and living at home, it’s great playing here and I love it. It’s good to be here.”
Duke, acquired for 19-year-old winger Gabriel Desjardins and a swap of draft picks, was considered an important addition at the time of the trade, but his presence has been appreciated even more since veteran Sawyer Hannay went down with a concussion three weeks ago.
The six-foot, 205-pounder has stepped into Hannay’s spot on the top pairing with Konrad Abeltshauser and logged heavy minutes against top-line opponents at even strength and on the penalty kill. He has even seen time on the second power-play unit.
Along with Abeltshauser and Trey Lewis, it’s likely no one else on the team has seen more ice time since Hannay’s injury.
“You never want to see any guys injured, but with a couple of players out, guys are getting more ice time,” Duke said.
In 22 games with the Mooseheads heading into Wednesday’s 7 p.m. home contest against the Bathurst Titan, Duke has three assists and a team-best plus-10 rating. It’s telling that no one else is better than plus-5 in that timeframe and no other defenceman is better than plus-2.
“We knew we needed some help with Gilly (Steve Gillard) out (with a concussion since November), and with Sawyer out now, he’s even more important,” Mooseheads head coach Dominique Ducharme said. “He’s been playing great.”
Ducharme said that because of his early-season injury, Duke might just be finding his stride, and that he’s getting better and better with more minutes.
“He helps us in a lot of situations because he’s very versatile,” Ducharme said. “He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and it’s nice to have him.”