Rangers See Future In Duclair, But Does Future Start Now?

Anthony Duclair, the Rangers third round pick in 2013, made a huge impression in the preseason (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Anthony Duclair, the Rangers third round pick in 2013, made a huge impression in the preseason (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

NEWARK, N.J. — At least early in the NHL preseason, fans and perhaps more importantly the front office is given a glimpse into the future.  Many young players who aren’t expected to make an impact at the highest level for at least a few seasons are brought into camp for a look, and most of them are often jettisoned back to the minors or juniors early in the process without making much of an impression.

Anthony Duclair is different.

The 19-year-old, drafted in the third round by the New York Rangers in 2013, has made a huge impression during the preseason, and is a strong candidate to make the club’s opening night roster after potting three goals and two assists in five preseason contests.  The skilled forward was named the team’s Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award winner as the top rookie in camp.

“I think I had a pretty good camp from start to finish,” Duclair told The Trentonian in an exclusive one-on-one postgame chat on Saturday night.

“I was pretty focused every day, I came to work hard every day, and we’ll just see what happens here.”

Duclair has spent the past three seasons with the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts, where he’s posted 215 points in 177 games, including his first 50-goal season in 2013-14.  The 5-foot-11, 185 pounder could at the very least receive a trial run with the Blueshirts this season, staying up for nine games before potentially being sent back down to juniors before the first year of his NHL contract would kick in.  After the game, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault said his unique contract status wouldn’t play a role in any decision regarding his future.

“I don’t think that comes into the equation,” Vigneault said.  “I think if we want him to stay, we’re going to find a way to make it happen.”

Duclair said the experience in training camp and the preseason was “unbelievable,” and credits a strong showing in Traverse City towards building momentum he had coming into the past three weeks.

“My goal was stay as long as possible, and to reach this far, I want to make this team,” he said.  “These are new systems for myself, so I’ve got to learn every day and adapt to new situations.  I played with new linemates every game, and I think positioning-wise, I learned a lot.”

If there was a downside to Duclair’s camp, it was that the majority of his points came early in the preseason, where he was facing lineups that weren’t primarily made up of NHL talent.  As the preseason wore on, he struggled, and seemed out of place at times in last night’s 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

“Any time you play on the road, they’re going to put out a good lineup,” he said.  “Playing against veteran guys, I think it makes it that much tougher, but at the same time you just have to adapt to the situation.”

If nothing else, Duclair has made the decision on whether to keep him around or not a difficult one for Vigneault, something Duclair couldn’t help but smile about.

“I stuck around longer than people thought,” he said.  “That’s pretty good.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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