Rangers Make the Right Call on Duclair

About a month back, I wrote that the best option for Anthony Duclair would be for him to play in the AHL. We of course all know that this is not actually an option for the 19-year-old rookie right winger, thanks to a deal between the NHL and the CHL which puts AHL eligibility restrictions on American and Canadian born players such as Duclair who have come up through the Canadian junior system.

On Tuesday, however, the Rangers announced that the “Duke” would be joining Team Canada for the IIHF World Junior Championships, which will be held later this month, from December 26th, through January 5th. While it may not be ideal, given the current circumstances, this is the best possible option – for the time being – for the Rangers, Duclair, and Team Canada.

On the Fringe

Duclair, who has played well in his limited ice-time with the Rangers thus far, has registered seven points (1-6-7) in his 18 games in a Ranger uniform. But as well as he has played on the ice, Duclair has also found himself off the ice as a healthy scratch somewhat often, as he’s been a healthy scratch for three straight games now, and six of New York’s last 12.

During this year’s training camp, Duclair turned heads and raised eyebrows with his high skill set, and incredible maturity beyond his years. While Duclair did make the team right out of the gate, the Rangers coaching staff clearly, and understandably so, still have had some reservations about his readiness to be a true, full-time top-six forward in the NHL as a 19-year-old.

And so, the Rangers have found themselves in limbo with the very talented young kid, who has proven to be too good to be sent back to the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, but not quite good enough to consistently crack the Blueshirts lineup on a regular basis.

But now, finally, after nearly two months without making a decision with regards to Duclair, time in which he has gone back and forth between being a bottom-six forward, and a healthy scratch, a call has finally been made to send Duclair to the World Juniors.

Beginning almost immediately on Thursday, when the Rangers will take to the road for a four game swing in western Canada, Duclair will head north for the opening day of Team Canada’s training camp.

Sending Anthony Duclair to the World Junior Championships, while temporary, is far and away the best option for both he and the Rangers. Instead of spending any given game sitting in the Madison Square Garden press box – which, don’t get me wrong, can in certain instances be beneficial to a young player when not overdone – Duclair will now have the opportunity to gain some valuable playing experience against the best competition his age group has to offer.

While it may not be the NHL, at least he’ll have some time to work on his game and touch up on the finer details, which will undoubtedly benefit him in the long run anyway. If nothing else, it’s better than collecting dust on the sidelines.

Small Opening for Miller

Duclair’s absence will also, in a small way, provide the Rangers with a bit of cap relief. Perhaps more important than that, though, it will give them a little extra time to focus on JT Miller, to see what he can prove with a more extended stay this time in New York while Duclair plays with Team Canada.

Again, this is by no means the final solution for Duclair. Eventually, and by that I mean a few weeks from now, the Rangers are going to need to make a final call on the season with him. For now though, at least he’ll be playing among some of the world’s best young talents. And that, if nothing else, will for now be far more beneficial than watching from the Bridges at the Garden.