Just yesterday it was announced that Anthony Duclair, 21-year-old right winger for Arizona Coyotes, would be sent down to the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate club. Even though he’s still a promising young player, Duclair’s struggles have been very surprising this season, especially considering the progress he made last season. However, while being assigned to the AHL is a demotion, some time in the minors will do Duclair a lot of good.
Originally a New York Rangers draft pick, Anthony Duclair impressed enough to make the team at the start of the 2014-15 season. Though a talented forward prospect, Duclair was still raw and didn’t see too much responsibility in the 18 games he wound up playing for the Rangers. But despite the lack of great opportunity to succeed, Duclair didn’t do bad, notching seven points in his some-what brief time in New York.
In the following season, the Rangers shipped Duclair to the Coyotes as a piece in the Keith Yandle deal that saw the star defender come to New York. Now on a team focused more on developing its youth, Duclair saw a much bigger role in Arizona and saw him take the next step in his development. With 20 goals and 24 assists, Duclair finished seventh in rookie scoring and 10th in voting for the Calder trophy, awarded to the best NHL rookie.
Coming off a strong season, it was expected that Duclair would continue to progress and become an important player for the Coyotes. However, if anything, Duclair took a big step back in his development, considering that in 41 games this season he has only posted a mere three goals and six assists. In his last five games, Duclair has failed to record a point while in his last 20 games he’s only scored four points.
There is the argument that Duclair would eventually improve if he could just work through whatever’s the problem by staying in the NHL but some time in the AHL will be very good for him. Don’t forget that Duclair is still very young at 21-years-old and heading down to face weaker competition can help get his confidence and his game back into place. With the Tuscon Roadrunners, Duclair will be able to play big minutes and face players more his age while also improving. Duclair still has a lot of work to do to become an impact player in the NHL and there’s no harm in going back to the AHL for a few games.
While his extremely poor season this year probably isn’t indicative of his true talent, there’s reason to believe that Duclair also over-performed a bit in his rookie season two years ago. When he scored his 44 points, Duclair had a massive 19% shooting percentage. For all skaters who played in more than 20 games last year, Duclair had the sixth highest shooting percentage in the entire league.
It also didn’t help that even since his time with the Rangers, Duclair has had trouble putting shots on goal at the NHL level. In his 18 games with the Rangers, Duclair only registered 18 shots on goal. With the Coyotes last year, he just barely broke the 100 mark in 81 games and this year he’s only averaged a little more than one shot per game. Compare that to rookies like Jack Eichel, Artemi Panarin, and Nikolaj Ehlers, who averaged at least over two shots per game and were more successful than Duclair last year and continued their success into this season.
There’s no denying that Duclair is talented but his demotion to the AHL shouldn’t be looked at as a bad thing. Some time in the AHL for the first time in his career will do him some good and will hopefully get him back on track to becoming the impact player he projects to be.