Will Anthony Duclair Shine at World Juniors?
The New York Rangers and head coach Alain Vigneault hope that the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championship turns out to be the gift that just keeps giving for both top prospect Anthony Duclair and the Blueshirts.
Insisting that getting the chance to compete in the WJC is like a “Christmas present” for any young Canadian player, Vigneault is obviously counting on Duclair making the most of the opportunity to help lead Team Canada to gold in front of the hometown fans in Toronto and Montreal. Just how well the 19-year-old performs in the tournament, of course, will go a long way toward determining whether the Blueshirts bring him back to New York or elect instead to let him return to his junior team, the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, where he scored 50 goals and 99 points in just 59 games last season.
In 18 games with the Rangers the 2013 third-round draft choice scored just one goal while adding six assists and was a healthy scratch for six of 12 games leading up to the somewhat easy decision to loan him to Team Canada.
Anthony Duclair was excited that the Rangers elected to send him. Before leaving he spoke with his coach, “I told him I really wanted to be a part of this tournament. It was really important for me to come here and it’s good for my development.”
Duclair’s game revolves around speed off the wing and creativity with the puck, the very aspects of the game that Vigneault holds dear. The Montreal native showcased those skills during the preseason with the Rangers, which unexpectedly won him a spot with the big club to start the year. Once the season began, however, his ice time quickly diminished and he often found himself on the fourth line where his skill set was not fully utilized.
The WJC should provide more of a stage on which Duclair can perform along with the likes of skilled teammates such as projected 2015 No. 1 NHL draft pick Connor McDavid. Beginning on Dec. 26 and concluding with the gold medal game on Jan. 5, Duclair should play major minutes in every key situation for Team Canada as he continues to develop both his game and his confidence.
What will it take for the Rangers to bring him back to New York following the tournament? No one is really sure. It will likely be decided by a combination of his overall play in the tournament, how healthy the Rangers are, and where they think he fits or doesn’t fit in the lineup.
Regardless of what happens at the tournament during the holiday break, Duclair’s future is undeniably bright. Should the Rangers bring him back to Broadway? Tough call, but the vote here is to return him to his junior team regardless where he can again shine instead of shuffling him in and out of the lineup at MSG and watching his confidence wane. Like fighting off the urge to unwrap that shiny present sitting under the tree three days before Christmas, good things come to those who wait.