Duclair Destined for Senators’ Top-Six

Anthony Duclair’s young career has had its fair share of controversy. At the age of 24, he has already played for five different NHL clubs. Originally drafted by the New York Rangers, he has since played for the Arizona Coyotes, the Chicago Blackhawks, and the Columbus Blue Jackets. His tenure with the Blue Jackets raised the most concern, as he received hefty criticism from John Tortorella, his former head coach.

However, Duclair was given another chance after being traded to the rebuilding Senators in a package deal that saw former Senators forward Ryan Dzingel heading the other way. Duclair was given ample opportunity with the Senators, as his average ice time per game increased by almost a full minute and a half with his new team. The 2019-20 preseason has concluded, and he has proven himself as a lock to make the Senators’ top six on opening night.

Anthony Duclair Ottawa Senators
Ottawa Senators left wing Anthony Duclair (10) speeds past Montreal Canadiens centre Max Domi (Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

Offensive Instincts

There is no doubt that Duclair has the offensive instincts to put up points. His hockey IQ, vision and wrist shot are elite when packaged together in the offensive zone. He knows when to get in position for the one-timer and when to pass to his linemates for a scoring chance of their own.

“I have a chance to play in the top six role and I just want to make a good first impression on the coaching staff and make sure that I work hard every day.”

Anthony Duclair (From: ‘Senators defeat Maple Leafs in pre-season test,’ Ottawa Sun, 09/18/2019)

Duclair’s elite level skating supports his offensive talents. In a couple of swift strides, he can catch opposing defencemen off-guard and cruise right by them for a scoring chance. This was evident during the second period of the Senators’ final pre-season game against the Montreal Canadiens, when he poke-checked the puck off of Max Domi’s stick and skated by him before he could recover. The result of the play was a terrific shorthanded goal against Canadiens’ netminder Carey Price.

In Duclair’s career, his average points per game is 0.43. However, in his short stint with the Senators at the end of the 2018-19 season, he managed to score 8 goals and 6 assists in 21 games, registering a points per game average of 0.67. While matching this rate of production should not be expected going into this season, he will receive second-line ice time with the Senators, an increase from his third-line minutes last season.

“It’s a big opportunity for me this year and I’ve just got to take it and run with it.”

Anthony Duclair

With Duclair’s nose for the goal, and a coach who appears to have faith in his young winger’s scoring capabilities, he will have ample opportunity to produce in a top-six role. His point totals will also depend on the chemistry he has with his linemates, and his deployment in the offensive end during even strength and power-play situations.

Zemgus Girgensons Johan Larsson Anthony Duclair
Ottawa Senators’ Anthony Duclair gets hit by Buffalo Sabres’ Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

Defensive Deployment

Duclair is not known for his defensive abilities. He has been criticized for his lack of effort, one-dimensional play and bad efforts in his own zone. For the entirety of his career, he has mostly started his shifts in the offensive zone. His past coaches rarely used him in defensive zone starts. However, Senators head coach, D.J. Smith, has sought to change these criticisms.

“He’s seen me play in junior and the last few years, he knows what I can bring to the table and I’m excited to learn from him”

-Anthony Duclair on D.J. Smith (From ‘Anthony Duclair happy to stay with Senators for one more year,’ Pembroke Observer, 06/18/2019)

Duclair noted early on in Senators training camp that this was the first time in his NHL career that he was being tasked with time on the penalty kill. Utilizing him in defensive situations is a sensible decision by Smith as top six players in today’s game need to be well-rounded in order to help their team succeed.

Anthony Duclair Ottawa Senators
Anthony Duclair, Ottawa Senators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As mentioned earlier, Duclair’s speed is a big part of his scoring chances. Smith’s decision to give him penalty kill time has the potential to pay off in dividends. One turnover at the blue line and he can be scoring a goal at the other end of the ice. This exact situation played out in the Senators’ final game of the preseason, as seen above in the video from the team’s Twitter account. He has reacted positively to his new responsibilities, noting that he is getting more comfortable in a defensive role.

“I’m getting comfortable as the games go on and I’m getting a lot of help from the other guys just watching a lot of video.”

Anthony Duclair on his new penalty kill duties (From: ‘Senators just miss in pre-season finale, and now it’s on to those difficult final cuts,’ Ottawa Citizen, 09/29/2019)

With his commitment to growing his game defensively, and his offensive prowess already evident, Duclair appears to be destined for a permanent fixture in the Senators’ top six this season.