With all the focus on Filip Forsberg and whether the Nashville Predators will sign or trade their 27-year-old expiring free agent, it’s easy to forget about the team’s other star forward having an excellent season.

Matt Duchene polished off another great performance last night in Bridgestone Arena, scoring two goals and adding one assist, a sneaky pass to Forsberg in the crease, to help the Preds beat the Ducks 4-1.

Those three points gave Duchene eight total points in his last four games, performances which led to wins over the Ducks, Stars, and Sharks.

“Maybe wasn’t our best effort, but it’s a tough game to play in,” Duchene said after the game. “Obviously [the Ducks] are missing a lot of regulars, it was a little different type game than we’re used to, I guess. But there’s no moral victories in any way this year. We played a heck of a game against Dallas the other night, if we lose that one, it doesn’t matter how well we played. So tonight’s kind of the reverse. We were pretty average tonight, but found a way to win.”

The Ducks were without several top players, including Ryan Getzlaf and Trevor Zegras. And while the Preds probably should have scored quite a few more goals (they had two goals taken off the board in the game), they still managed to beat a fading Ducks team to hold onto the top Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.

“It was good for us tonight,” Duchene added. “We want to stay hungry and keep pressing forward. That’s our job, what we did tonight, and we got to keep doing it.”

Duchene’s recent tear shows what Poile paid for

Last night was just another example of why David Poile brought Matt Duchene to Nashville.

Duchene showed not only his ability to score, which he did early on the power play, but his ability to make other players around him better. His pass to Filip Forsberg in the slot set up a wide open goal which would eventually be the game winner.

Back in July 2019, just after signing Duchene to a seven year, $56 million contract, David Poile was asked what he hoped Matt Duchene would bring to the Nashville Predators.

“Offense, offense, offense,” was Poile’s response.

As most Preds fans know, the immediate return was less than stellar.

Duchene scored only 13 goals in his first season with Nashville, the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season. Then he had only 13 points in the Preds’ 34 game season in 2020-21 which culminated in a playoff series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

The trend for Duchene, who turned 31 years old in January, was inauspicious.

But this year, Duchene has been everything the Preds hoped he would be.

He currently leads the team with 29 goals and is second on the team in points with 54. He leads the team with 12 power play goals, perhaps his most impactful attribute at this point, given how bad the Preds’ power play has been over the last several years. He’s scored timely goals all season, putting the Preds in advantageous situations and helping seal wins with late goals.

He’s also making his mark among the league’s top goal scorers. Duchene’s .54 goals per game mark ranks 13th in the NHL, ahead of names like Connor McDavid, Brayden Point, Brad Marchand, and Steven Stamkos.

That’s exactly what David Poile envisioned when he signed Duchene to a contract worth $8 million per year. Add a healthy dose of veteran leadership to his scoring production and the Preds have solid value in their top paid forward.

“I just love our focus, our resiliency, our levelheadedness,” Duchene said of the team’s recent play. “I mean, we didn’t play a very good game in Seattle. Hynesy had to give us a bit of a kick in the ass in San Jose. We responded well to it. We knew that it was warranted. We’d gotten away from our game a little bit. It’s a tough schedule too, I mean we were barely playing after coming off every other day playing. We needed to ramp our game back up and we’ve done a lot of good things to get the results we need.”

There are still no updates on whatever is happening with Filip Forsberg. At this point, it feels like a 50/50 coin flip whether the Nashville Predators will sign or trade him.

But with Matt Duchene putting up a career season, David Poile has to feel a bit more confident about the future of his hockey club, regardless of the outcome with Forsberg.

— Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports —