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Ottawa Senators Top 25 Under 25, #8: Anthony Duclair

The skilled winger has been a bit of an enigma in his time in the NHL

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

8. Anthony Duclair (Reader Rank: 8, Last Year: N/A)

When it comes to Anthony Duclair, nothing is ever simple and everyone seems to have a strong opinion. Duclair is one of the oldest players on our list at 24, but even for someone who’s closer to “veteran” than “rookie” he’s been through a lot in his NHL career.

A brief summary of how Duclair got to where he is today:

  • Drafted 80th overall by the New York Rangers in 2013, Duclair had a breakout season the next year by scoring 50 goals to go along with 49 assists in only 59 games for the Quebec Ramparts of the QMJHL. His stock sky-rocketed and he was a key piece in a 2015 trade that netted the Rangers Keith Yandle from the Arizona Coyotes. Duclair was highly touted by Don Maloney, the Coyotes’ GM at the time: “Anthony Duclair is a dynamic, skilled forward who has size, speed and offensive talent. He will be a valuable addition to our organization.”
  • In his first full NHL season, Duclair developed a strong chemistry with Max Domi and netted 44 points in 81 games in 2015-16. The Coyotes were full of optimism about their future built around their young stars — including Duclair.
  • The following year, Duclair and the Coyotes both took a step back and the promising young forward spent a long stretch of the season in the AHL. His 15 points in 58 games in the NHL would count as a major disappointment and he requested a trade the next season.
  • Duclair’s wish was granted in January of 2018 and he landed in Chicago but failed to impress in a short stint there, and the Blackhawks declined to qualify him. Duclair seemed to recognize he was running out of chances, but was able to nab a 1 year, $650k contract from the Columbus Blue Jackets before the 2018-19 season.
  • Things got off to good start with the Jackets last year, including this absolute highlight reel goal:
  • But his time in Columbus ended with a trade to your Ottawa Senators not long after his then-coach John Tortorella had this to say about him:
  • Duclair went on a bit of a heater after joining the Sens, scoring 14 points in 21 games and earning himself a 1 year, $1.65M contract.

Got all of that? It’s been an eventful 5 seasons in the pros for the native of Pointe-Claire Quebec. The contract he signed this off-season with the Sens is his second “prove it” deal of a young career, but there’s no denying his potential to be a productive offensive player in the NHL. If he’s going to stick around in the league long term, however, he’ll need to improve his defensive play. Despite the aforementioned scoring burst during his time in Ottawa, his shot metrics were not pretty all season:

hockeyviz.com

The chart above is looking strictly at the shots the Sens allowed with Duclair on the ice at 5v5 for his time in the nation’s capital. The verdict is not good! Unfortunately, Duclair has a bit of a history of porous defensive play as reflected in his results from the last three years:

hockeyviz.com

(Graphics are courtesy of the indispensable hockeyviz.com and friend of the site, Micah McCurdy)

I don’t know if I would go as far as Tortorella did in his quote above, but to my eye Duclair does indeed struggle with some aspects of defensive play; particularly in his coverage through the neutral zone. Wingers are not typically asked to do too much of the heavy lifting in a defensive scheme but the best can make a significant impact (see: Stone, Mark) and the worst can really muck things up for the other four skaters out there. Duclair’s got the skating skill necessary to be an effective defender but at 24 is it too late to reshape his game? If the answer is no, and he can make himself into even an acceptable defender, then he has a real shot to stick around the league and score 15 on a team’s bottom six. If the answer is yes, and he continues to be a sieve defensively, then he won’t be long for this league and this chance in Ottawa could be one of his last.

In a perfect world, Duclair might bring some scoring punch to a team’s fourth line but on the 2019-20 version of the Ottawa Senators he will very likely be vying for meaningful minutes on the team’s second line and on the power play. I would be frankly surprised if Duclair ever scores 50 points in the NHL but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a productive NHLer. Whether he reaches that point or not will be one of the most interesting subplots on this year’s Sens.