In his first two seasons with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL as a 16 year-old and 17 year-old, Rangers prospect Anthony Duclair totaled an impressive 51 goals and 116 points in 118 games. Now, at the tender age of 18, Duclair is having a season to be remembered, and is on the verge of matching his goal output of the previous two years, and possibly his point total, as well.
Yet Duclair, who leads the league with 50 goals in 58 games this season, insists that numbers are not what is most important to him.
"I get asked a lot if I am that type of player, one who thinks about a 50-goal season or a 100-point season, and the answer is No, I am not that kind of player at all actually," explained Duclair, who will not turn 19 until August. "I just want to improve every day, be a better player and person by the day, and become an all-around player."
Still, Duclair has to be even just a little bit excited by racking up 50 goals and 98 points so far, with eight games remaining in the regular season, right?
"For sure, it's been fun, and you do get hungrier and hungrier to go after bigger numbers the more you produce, but I don't think about specific numbers at all," added Duclair, who ranks third in the QMJHL in points.
While Duclair is quick to downplay his tremendous offensive production this season, members of the Rangers front office have certainly taken notice, and are thrilled, with Duclair's play in 2013-14. Speak with Jeff Gorton, the Rangers assistant General Manager, or Gordie Clark, the team's Director Player Personnel, and both will gush about Duclair's skill set and then speak about the consistency in his game this year--the biggest difference in turning a 20-goal scorer last year into a 50-goal scoring machine at present.
"It's fun when you confront a player and challenge him, and then he ends up doing exactly what you want, and that's what happened with Anthony who is using his speed and skill on a more consistent basis this season," explained Clark, who added that he had long conversations with Duclair about the need to play a more consistent game then what he showed in 2012-13.
"He was looking for that consistent game, and he had to prove it to himself that he could be that player because the speed and skill were already there," added Clark. "His is a high-speed, skill game, but to play at the NHL level one day you need consistency in all areas of your game, and be an all-around player. He's seeing that now. Some things you just can't fast forward, it's part of the process. That's been the case with Anthony."
In his first season of major junior hockey Duclair impressed with 31 goals and 66 points in 63 games with Quebec, and there was talk entering his draft year of 2012-13 that he could be a first-round pick. However, slowed by injuries and inconsistent play at times a year ago, Duclair fell to the third round where the Rangers snatched him up with the 80th overall selection after a 20-goal, 50-point campaign.
To say that was a wakeup call for the intelligent and personable Duclair is quite the understatement.
"I was predicted in the beginning of the year to go in the first round and there I was sitting in the stands at the draft waiting and waiting, and it was something I didn't like," recalled Duclair. "From that moment on, when I went to development camp and then to camp in Quebec I was out to prove everyone wrong and that I shouldn't have dropped. I think I have first round talent, and I feel I am proving exactly that to everyone this year."
Gorton told Duclair on the draft floor at the Prudential Center that "it's just a number" where a player gets selected, but it's up to the player moving forward after the draft to prove himself. Getting drafted is just the start, the opportunity. What a player does after that defines his future.
"We stressed to him you went in the third round, that doesn't mean anything any more, now it's what are you going to do?", said Gorton. "Now you show people you should have gone higher; and he has done that. We talked to him about consistency, and he's been better with that. And I think the thing with Duclair is that there is more there. He's a top level skater. He's only going to get bigger. His game is really just coming into its own. We just think he has so much more there to give."
After starting this season with a pair of goals on opening night, Duclair followed with another pair in Quebec's second game and reeled off five goals and seven points in a season-opening four-game point-scoring streak. However that was only the appetizer. Duclair has been held off the scoresheet in only 14 games this season, and he has already totaled 15 contests in which he has recorded three points or more--including a surreal seven-point game against Halifax on January 30th, a four-goal game on October 26th, and a four-assist effort last week.
In early January the Rangers signed Duclair to an entry-level contract, a strong show of support for an 18 year-old third-round draft pick. Clearly the Rangers have liked what they have seen from Duclair, who has emerged not only as a dominant force with Quebec, but who is a leader on the team, as well.
"I was really surprised at first and was so happy that they had that much confidence in me to sign me so soon," stated Duclair, whose all-time favorite players are Markus Naslund and Sidney Crosby. "Right after I signed it just went uphill for me. It obviously motivated me more to work hard. Since then I have been having a great year, so far."
As for what lies ahead, Duclair is not looking too far down the road. He said that he wants to finish the season strong, lead the Remparts on a long playoff run, and then get to work on his off-season training--which will include another visit to the MSG Training Center in July for the Rangers Development Camp.
Most importantly Duclair wants to keep improving in all areas of his game, keep getting stronger, and continue to prove that 29 other NHL teams wrong in passing him by
Even if he doesn't pay attention to what the final numbers are this season.