Players

Rangers send Duclair to QMJHL

Update (9:15am): Renaud Lavoie has stated multiple sources expect him to go back to the QMJHL. Bob McKenzie has confirmed this.

Original Post: The New York Rangers face a key decision in the next few days: What are they going to do with rookie winger Anthony Duclair? Duclair has bounced between the press box and the lineup, dressing in just 18 of the Rangers 36 games this year. Now, some of those missed games are due to his participation in the 2015 World Juniors (he hasn’t played in December), but he was still a healthy scratch for stretches at a time.

Over those 18 games, Duclair put up a line of 1-6-7, not overly impressive but definitely not bad. The bigger issue was that Duclair didn’t register a goal and had just two assists in November. He bounced around the lineup a bit, but spent most of his time with Carl Hagelin and Kevin Hayes.

His #fancystats aren’t bad either. He’s on the positive side of relative CF% at 0.4% (51.3% CF). Those numbers should be taken lightly, as Duclair received heavily sheltered minutes (60% OZ starts, fairly easy quality of competition faced). The chart below shows how he ranks compared to other Rangers forwards:

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The issue with Duclair is where he would play in the lineup. He needs to play top-nine minutes according to Alain Vigneault, and it’s tough to really argue with that. Assuming the top-six are Rick Nash, Derek Stepan, Martin St. Louis, Chris Kreider, Derrick Brassard, and Mats Zuccarello; then Duclair is competing with Kevin Hayes, Lee Stempniak, Carl Hagelin, and J.T. Miller for a spot on the third line.

Hayes and Hagelin are staying on the third line for now, so this turns into a competition between Duclair, Stempniak, and Miller. Assuming Tanner Glass remains a healthy scratch, AV has shown little hesitance in putting Miller on the fourth line with Jesper Fast and Dominic Moore. I have no real complaints with that. I’ve been clamoring for that lineup composition for a while now.

Has Duclair done enough at the NHL level –or at the World Juniors– to show that he deserves to be in the lineup over Stempniak? Stempniak has better numbers, both traditional and #fancystats, than Duclair (5-7-12, 52.6% CF, 3.7% CF rel, tougher competition, fewer OZ starts). We are victims of small sample size here, but it’s tough to argue that Duclair has been the overall better player than Stempniak.

That’s not a slight against the winger, who has shown great improvement in his game with his stint in the NHL. We’ve seen it in his play at the WJC. If he hasn’t taken the spot from Stempniak, and Miller has been lights out, then who does he replace in the lineup?

The biggest problem is that if the Rangers send Duclair back to Quebec in the QMJHL, they lose him for good. Quebec hosts the Memorial Cup this year, so the Rangers wouldn’t be able to recall him until May. One injury means Glass is back in the lineup, and then the forward depth is questionable at best.

No matter which way you look at it, the Rangers have a tough call to make. Can a Stanley Cup contending team deal with another rookie in the lineup? Are they better off with the known entity in Stempniak? There’s no wrong choice to make here. In all honesty, it’s a good problem to have.

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  • It is a good problem to have but a problem nonetheless. I think the kid would be hurt the worst in the press box. He’s not a player the Rangers can use as a 13th forward. That kid could be a special player in a year or two. Duke played as well as any Canadian on that team. Incl the kids that went first round or are headed for next summers 1st round. It stinks he would be lost until the Memorial Cup is over in May but the Rangers should let him be a kid. He won’t have those memories sitting out as a scratch. Let the kid play with his friends and have fun playing the game.

    I liked the lineup fielded in the Buffalo game. AV switched Fast with Stempniak and it looked like both lines played better. Only one game but both lines had a righty and I thought both players were in better positions in the lineup. Stempniak is a good skater and good forechecker. As a 4th line player he can do that.

    • I have to agree, this kid should play every game possible, and that won’t happen unless he goes back to the juniors!! He should not ride the pine, continue to develop his skills, and get ready for next season!!

  • I don’t think it would hurt our depth sending him back to juniors. He gets to play, and if there’s an injury, we have a glut of forwards down in Hartford that could fill in temporarily, pending glass doesn’t get put back in. Let him get the memorial cup experience, and call up lindberg, haggerty, maybe even Kristo, just to see what we have in Hartford in case of injury.

    • I really like the kid Haggerty. I think he could be a very effective bottom 6 player in the pros. Miller filled in well at Center if either of Stepan or Brassard went down with injury. Really think Sather should switch Malone with Glass. Let Glass play in Hartford and have Malone be the extra forward. Malone isn’t any kind of savior but he will at least score 4-5 goals if he played. Malone will be the net front presence and help forecheck. It might be cheaper that way since $950K would come off the books from Glass and Moore has a more cap friendly contract under that $950K or $925K number. Maybe someone claims Glass on Waivers. Never know, that experiment didn’t work out. Cut ties any way you can. Gets the Rangers out from under that abomination of a contract for Glass with 2 more seasons on it. Malone is a big man and would at least help out in some areas. Glass doesn’t do enough to justify his deal!

      • Technically yes, but not until Quebec’s season is over. Since they automatically qualify for the Memorial Cup this season (hosting it), that won’t be until May. So that’s ECF, if they are still around.

  • He’s dynamic, they could use him right now, nothing left to prove. Should have put him on a line with Miller and Hayes and let them grow together. By April they would be a force to deal with.

    • When do you consider a player as rushed Dave?

      Stepan was a 20 year old rookie that never played in the AHL but did play two years at Wisconsin. While JT Miller exploited a loophole to join the AHL/NHL from Juniors at 19.

      Would you consider them rushed?

      It was nice to see Duclair give Buchnevich a big hug in the handshake line last night. Duclair whispered something in Buchnevich’s ear, I wonder if it was something about next fall and how those two are going to take over the NHL together? Man, those two are going to be fun to watch. They generate so much offense.

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