Anthony Duclair back in, but what’s the end game?

Anthony Duclair (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Anthony Duclair (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Anthony Duclair is back in the New York Rangers lineup – for now. “I’d rather be here than in juniors playing first line, that’s for sure,” Duclair told reporters today. And so said every kid that has made it to the NHL and doesn’t want to be sent a back down.

Tonight, Duclair will play on a line with Kevin Hayes and Carl Hagelin – but can we expect success? Honestly, I don’t know. His possession numbers are solid with Kevin Hayes in limited action. His CF% is 53.1 in 22:21 on ice with Hayes as his center. On the flip side, it’s only 44.1 with Carl Hagelin in 29:05. Hayes and Hags have combined for a 48.6.

Regardless of the fancy stat numbers, Duclair needs to produce in order to garner more playing time. “I’m excited to get going,” the kid known as The Duke told reporters. “I’ve been watching form upstairs learning a few things, learning from some veterans and I’m ready to go.”

That’s great, but if he only plays 9 minutes tonight and finds himself parked on the bench in the third period, I have to ask – “What’s the end game Rangers?”

Alain Vigneault believes Duclair has the skill set to play at the NHL. However, skill set and the maturity level to compete night in and out at an NHL level are two different things. “Sometimes for a guy like that, playing every night is not the right thing to do,” Vigneault told the Daily News. “It’s a long season.”

What does that mean though? Is he here to stay or are they still unsure about what role he will play on this team – this season. As Larry Brooks noted, there’s nothing wrong with delaying the decision until after the World Junior Championships from December 18th to January 6th.

However, if he’s here the Rangers can’t waste this opportunity. Although Anthony Duclair told NHL.com that he “thinks it’s better for him to stay”, it doesn’t make sense for him to do so from the stands or on the bench most nights.

“To be honest, it doesn’t matter if I’m not playing every game. Practicing with these type of players every day and being around a pro environment definitely will help me in the future,” said Duclair. “I think if I go back to junior I don’t have much to prove there anymore.”

Well if we’re being honest – a 19 year old kid should be playing as much as possible to develop the skills they will need to succeed in the long term. Yes, while it may seem like an nice option to have on the Rangers today – it will be better for their future success if he continued to work on his game somewhere.

The end game here should be simple – play the kid or send him back to juniors. I’ve waited 20 plus years for a Stanley Cup, and even longer for a homegrown offensive talent. The last Rangers star forward I can think of (that we actually kept) was Rod Gilbert and that was way back in the 60’s.

New York has a star on their hands here – don’t blow it!