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Coyotes GM: We’re hoping for two steps forward from Duclair with AHL stint

Jan 25, 2017, 10:43 AM
Los Angeles Kings center Jordan Nolan (71) celebrates his goal with left wing Kyle Clifford (13) as...

Los Angeles Kings center Jordan Nolan (71) celebrates his goal with left wing Kyle Clifford (13) as Arizona Coyotes left wing Anthony Duclair (10) pauses on the ice during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Kings won, 4-3. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: John Chayka, Arizona Coyotes general manager

Anthony Duclair was supposed to be an integral cog in the Arizona Coyotes’ young core.

But as we stand here on Jan. 25, 2017, he is one of the newest members of the Tucson Roadrunners.

The Coyotes sent Duclair down last week after he tallied just three goals and six assists in 41 games.

Last season, the former New York Rangers prospect notched 20 goals and 24 assists in 81 games.

Duclair, 21, has one goal through two games with the AHL team while the Coyotes have reeled off a pair of wins.

“I think [Duclair] is just focused on his own game,” Coyotes GM John Chayka told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday morning. “At this point in the season to have three goals, that’s certainly not what a goal-scorer expects to have.

“I think it’s just important for him to get back to doing the things that make him successful: playing with speed, playing with the puck, hunting pucks, being relentless on the forecheck.”

Chayka said he was in Tucson Tuesday watching practice, and felt like Duclair has been making strides. The expectation, he added, is for the the forward to return to the Valley in the near future.

“But it comes down to his play. He’s as talented as we have, he’s as talented as they come in this league,” Chayka noted. “It’s just about finding his footing, getting back on the horse, so to speak, and getting back playing the way he can.”

It was not long ago that Duclair was seen as one of hockey’s rising stars. In summer 2015, NHL.com ranked him as the second-best prospect in the Coyotes’ system, and before even coming to Arizona in the trade that sent Keith Yandle to the Big Apple, he was very highly regarded.

Last season only served to reaffirm his promise, which is why he seemed primed to take another step forward this year.

Instead his career has taken a detour to the Old Pueblo, where he told TucsonRoadrunners.com he has a goal in mind.

“Coming down here, I’m just trying to work my butt off and try to be a leader here, try to find my game and help the team win,” he said.

The sooner he finds his game, the quicker he will be back on the ice at Gila River Arena. Their recent stretch of games notwithstanding, this season has been an incredible struggle for the Coyotes, and with the second-worst record in the NHL, building for the future is still a top priority.

Duclair is still seen as an integral part of it, especially given that Chayka sees him as a quality person with great character.

“I think last year, a lot of things went our team’s way, even though our fundamentals weren’t that great, I think we won some games and scored some goals where maybe we got on the right side of luck,” Chayka said. “And he’s a guy that shot an extremely high percentage, and he’s a shooter. How much of that was luck, how much of that was talent? We’ll find out as his career unfolds.”

Last season, Duclair had a shot percentage of 19.0, which led the Coyotes and was third overall in the NHL. This season, just 5.2 percent of his 58 shots found the back of the net.

“I think he’s paid for some of that early on here, he’s had a lot of chances and just hasn’t been able to convert,” Chayka said. “If you look at the first 25, 30 games of his season, his actual scoring chance production was very similar but the results were obviously drastically different.

“It’s something where if I didn’t believe that he was going down to Tucson with a good attitude and going to work his way up — he’s a guy that’s had adversity throughout his career prior, always seems to come out and score a lot of goals no matter what. It is a step back, without a doubt, and that’s not something that I can even try to justify. But at the same time, we’re hoping for two steps forward and that’s the goal with this type of move.”

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Coyotes GM: We’re hoping for two steps forward from Duclair with AHL stint