With respect to the upcoming NHL draft, New Jersey Devils fans are understandably interested in what they'll do with their ninth overall pick. However, one pick does not make a good draft class. The Devils only have four picks but they do have their second round pick and it will be an early one. At 39th overall, the Devils could find a very talented prospect, just as they did in 2010 when they picked Jon Merrill at 38th overall. Even if they select a talented scoring forward with their first round pick, they could use more of those kind of players in the system. Therefore, the team and the fans should try to get familiar with who may be available at the #39 spot. In my opinion, the Devils can do a lot worse than Quebec left winger Anthony Duclair.
Who is Anthony Duclair?
According to his profile at league website, he's a 5'11", 182 pound left winger and currently plays for the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Duclair is still 17 as he was born on August 26, 1995, so he's got quite some time on his side. His stats at Elite Prospects highlight how scouts became very interested in him two seasons ago as well as why he's being touted for a second round pick.
In 2011-12, a 16-year old Duclair put up an impressive point per game pace with Quebec. To put that in perspective, only one U-17 player in the "Q" outscored Duclair that season: Nathan MacKinnon. However, in 2012-13, Duclair didn't play as much, the points weren't as prolific, and so he finished tied for twelfth among U-18 players in scoring. Had the production improved last season, I'm sure he'd be more highly touted in the draft.
It is worth noting that Duclair began the 2012-13 season with an injury, which delayed his scoring contributions. Based on this article at Buzzing the Net by Neate Sager, Duclair missed several weeks with a sprained ankle. When he came back, it took some time for the points to come. Sager's article also notes a little controversy when then coach and GM Patrick Roy suspended Duclair and leading scorer and potential first round prospect Adam Erne for "indifferent play" after a blowout loss to Halifax. Aaron Vickers had a post about the suspension at Future Considerations that goes into more detail, including Roy's rationale. That said, Duclair and Erne were reinstated quickly so it's all in the past.
Since Duclair played in Quebec, there's a few more stats to dig into. The QMJHL site publicly lists shots on goal for each player as well as "dangerous shots," which I assume are analgous to scoring chances. I have no idea why the QMJHL has this available but the OHL and WHL does not. In any case, we can use both to see whether Duclair improved in the more controllable category of shots even though his scoring did not. In Duclair's rookie season with Quebec, he put up 126 shots on net in 63 games and 87 of them were dangerous shots. That's an average of two shots per game; an average of 1.38 dangerous shots per game; and about 69% of his shots were dangerous ones. That's quite good. In 2012-13, Duclair put up 122 shots on net in 55 games and 71 of them were dangerous shots. While his percentage of dangerous shots to total shots dropped to approximately 58% and his dangerous shots per game rate fell to 1.29, he did improve his shots per game rate to 2.21 Duclair actually shot the puck a little bit more in this past season, but his shooting percentage dropped from 24.6% to 16.3% so the goals suffered. When one also considers the injury that prevented from getting going early in the season, it's not that much of a shock that Duclair only put up 50 points in 55 games.
Duclair has received attention from Team Canada in recent years. He Quebec at the U-17 level and he was a member of Canada's gold winning team at the Ivan Hlinka tournament last summer, where he contributed a goal and an assist in five games. I do not know if he's going to get notice for the junior tournaments, but Team Canada is plenty aware of what he can do.
What Experts Have Said About Anthony Duclair
In Sager's article about Duclair at Buzzing the Net, the player had this to say about training with his uncle, former Calgary Stampeders fullback Farell Duclair.
"I knew I needed to dedicate myself so I went and moved in with him and trained in Toronto," says Anthony Duclair, who has 47 points in 50 games for the Remparts despite a January swoon. "He knows what it takes to be a pro, He really wants me to be in the NHL, he's giving me tips and tools. We would go work one-on-one in park, doing a lot of sprinting and explosiveness."
All that sprinting and explosiveness has certainly helped the young winger as almost every profile and opinion about his potential raves about his skating. He's fast. He's quick. He's got a "second gear." Clearly, it's an asset. However, that's not all. Here's the overview from Future Considerations' profile on Duclair, which goes into that after praising his speed.
Duclair possess one of the best skating strides in the entire 2013 draft class. The first thing that jumps out about him is the high speed he plays at. He consistently beats defensemen out wide. His acceleration is very impressive and he gets to his top speed very quickly. He’s incredibly agile and a very shifty skater. He has very impressive puck skills considering he’s constantly at high speeds. Duclair has the puck on a string at times, and can make defensemen and goalies alike look silly. He’s very creative with the puck on his stick and is incredibly dangerous 1-on-1 or on a breakaway. His shot is accurate and comes off with a good release. He has the ability to make crisp, accurate passes and find open teammates but is considered more of a finisher.
It begins with his speed but FC notes some other skills as well, such as his skill with the puck and his shot. This is obviously good because there's no real value to blowing by opponents if you can't do anything with the puck. It's also good to see his passing being noted; he's not just a guy who takes it and goes ahead. Averaging over two shots per game is good; he's not a puck vacuum on the ice. However, this overview doesn't mention his play away from the puck. Fortunately, prospect guru Corey Pronman did so in his opinion on the player at Hockey Prospectus.
Duclair exploded onto the scene in the QMJHL in 2011-12, posting a little over a point per game as a 16-year-old. He followed it up with another quality campaign, despite a drop in his scoring rate. Duclair is a dynamic, exciting player, with high-end skating, if not better. He can be fun to observe because of his great speed, easily turning on the jets and putting defenders on their heels. Combining that skating ability with his great puck skills gives him the flair to create scoring chances and goals out of nothing. He shows the ability to make some quality passes, and although I wouldn't describe him as selfish, he can try to be too flashy in his rushes. In addition, he sometimes attempts to force passes that are too difficult. Although he shows some decent work ethic in physical battles, he could stand to bulk up a fair amount, and he needs to continue to work on his defensive game.
Pronman ranked Duclair 37th on his top 100 list of prospects, which would place him around the early second round. Pronman's praise is similar to FC's overview regarding his skating and his puck skills. That said, Pronman notes some of the flaws in his game. If Pronman says he needs to work on his defensive game, then it stands to reason it's not a strength. Duclair is aware of that, for what it's worth. I can see what Pronman means about the physical side of the game too; Duclair isn't very small but he could add muscle as he's listed at just 182 pounds (and that's from the Q's site, other places have different measurables). Too much flash as an issue is something I think can be improved over time as well. Still, it's a positive opinion for the winger. A similar take is provided by Shawn Reznik in his Duclair profile at The Hockey Writers. Here's a section of it that stood out to me:
Speed is Duclair’s forte. He’s beaten many defenders with his quick acceleration and consistent top speed. He isn’t a big player, so he’s figured out other ways to use his size effectively. His puck control is a key asset and slick stick work allows for him to find openings all over the ice and use his heavy wrister. The Quebec native’s accuracy behind the shot may need a touch of work, but he certainly packs a punch with the amount of power behind each shot.
The main issue that may need dedication is his play on both sides of the puck. Duclair is known for offensive instincts, but his defensive play could still use some brushing up. He’s shown flashes of great defensive play – for example, during the Top Prospects Game – and has worked on his two-way play, but he lacks the consistency game in and game out. He also needs to slow his game down a bit to be better equipped at the next level.
Reznik's profile is definitely worth a read for some the quotes as well as an opinion what Duclair will become. In this particular section, he identifies a little more detail about his shot - another area that could be improved upon. He also clarifies the concerns about his defending. It's good to read that he can be effective as it implies that there's something there to work on. The notion of slowing his game down, seems a bit weird but I don't think Reznik means his speed. As Pronman mentioned with the flashiness, perhaps Reznik thinks Duclair has to simplify what he does on the ice, ensure that's set, and then build on that rather than force plays. I can understand that.
As a last point, I wanted to highlight a less than positive take on Duclair. David Burstyn listed Duclair as a "falling prospect" at McKeen's. Here's the short blurb on the player:
Has speed and ability to create, however his lack of hockey sense plagued him all season .. additionally, he had to be disciplined for off-ice behaviour, which raises questions about his character.
As far as I know, he was only suspended for "indifferent play." Given that the suspension was only for a game, it was also doled out to Erne, and it came from the mercurial Roy, I don't think it's indicative of a character issue. Maybe there's something else, but I haven't seen it yet. So I wouldn't fret about that. If the people at McKeen's weren't impressed with his hockey sense along with the drop in production after a great 2011-12 season, I can understand why they may be down on him.
A Little Video
There's some highlight videos about Duclair available from his 2011-12 season. The first one is a compilation of highlights, showcasing Duclair's shot, speed, and awareness to get to the spot to finish the play. You may want to watch it on mute given that it's set to "I'm Shipping Up to Boston."
I found this video focusing on two goals he scored in 2012 against Baie-Comeau. The first one has him cheat up high on defense, get a lead pass from his teammate, and breakaway for a goal. The second goal is more impressive. He gets a cross-ice pass, enters the zone, beats the defenseman (and uses the ref as a makeshift pick), cuts inside, manages to maintain control going across the crease before sliding the puck in. That not only highlights his speed, but his skill with the puck.
An Opinion of Sorts
For what it's worth, Reznik's profile at The Hockey Writers notes that Duclair's ranking is all over the place from the high 30s to as low as the mid-50s, which comes from Central Scouting Services. Nevertheless, I get the sense that he's basically a second round talent. Does he have flaws? Of course. Off the puck play seems like something that needs work, namely on defense. He's not particularly big so getting stronger would be a plus. It was good to see him improve his shots per game, but he could stand to get more dangerous shots. Those are all areas he can improve on. That said, he's fast, he's very good at skating, he's got a good shot, and he's got a good mind for the offensive side of the game. He's also quite young as he'll turn 18 this summer, so I would think there is room for further potential. I would be interested to see how he does with a third season with Quebec. Ideally, he'll take even more shots, improve his percentage of dangerous shots to total shots, and pick up more points. All of which would further justify taking him higher in the second round regardless of what some services rank him.
From what I've read from others who have seen him play and wrote about his skills, I would welcome the Devils drafting Duclair at 39th overall. He's clearly an offensive forward; a kind of player the Devils really need more of in the system. The reports that state that he's fast and good at skating could prove very useful at the next level provided the rest of his game goes along with it. Duclair is the sort of prospect that would fit the bill as someone who needs some development to achieve some decent level of potential. Given that it's currently a scoring player, the Devils should be interested in Duclair and players like him in the second round. Here's hoping he or someone similar is the guy.
Now that you've read all this about Anthony Duclair, you've seen a little video, and you know my opinion, I want to know your take. Would you want the Devils to draft Duclair in the second round if he's available? What do you like most about Duclair? What concerns you about the prospect? Do you think he'll be more productive in his third year of junior, regardless of who drafts him? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Duclair in the comments. Thank you for reading.