Duclair’s all-around game will be key to making Coyotes’ roster

Sep 25, 2015, 6:39 AM
Arizona Coyotes goalie Niklas Treutle makes a save on a shot by Anthony Duclair (10) during the fir...
Arizona Coyotes goalie Niklas Treutle makes a save on a shot by Anthony Duclair (10) during the first full day of NHL hockey training camp Friday, Sept. 18, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — There is no questioning the chemistry between Coyotes prospects Anthony Duclair and Max Domi. It was on display again in Thursday’s Red & White scrimmage when they teamed up for two goals in the opening 3:04 of play.

Whether anyone will get to see that chemistry this season is still unknown. While Domi seems a safe bet to make the opening-night roster, it’s hard to tell which way coach Dave Tippett is leaning on Duclair.

“The one (exhibition) game he played in Bakersfield, I liked about one or two players and he wasn’t one of them,” Tippett said Thursday of a 5-1 loss to the Kings on Monday. “Tonight, he was obviously excellent and that line that played there tonight (with Antoine Vermette at center), they’ll play as a line tomorrow in San Jose.”

Tippett isn’t being tougher on Duclair than anyone else in camp. He acknowledges the elite skills and dynamic ability that Duclair brings to the table — an ingredient that has been in short supply in recent Coyotes seasons. There’s more to playing NHL hockey than offensive flash, however.

“Players like that get noticed because they make unbelievable plays when they get time and space,” Tippett said. “But what do you do when the puck comes around your wall with two minutes to go in the game and you’ve got to get the puck out? Those are the kinds of plays that young players have to learn.”

To his credit, Duclair has been diligent in applying the scant teachings the Coyotes coaching staff can afford, given the massive size of the training camp roster.

“I’m an offensive guy so I’ve got to watch my defensive zone coverage,” he said. “I’ve been working pretty hard on that and just making sure I’m always aware on the ice and playing well without the puck.”

Duclair’s 18 games with the New York Rangers right out of camp last season gave him a leg up on the rest of the key prospects in Coyotes camp this season, but a suspension earlier in his career for what then-juniors coach Patrick Roy called attitude issues, and a healthy scratch last season in Quebec raised some red flags.

Coyotes development coach Steve Sullivan said the team has seen no hint of whatever cropped up in the past and Tippett echoed those thoughts on Thursday.

“He’s done nothing to hurt his chances so far but the real evaluation comes in the exhibition games,” Tippett said.

After a poor showing against Los Angeles, Duclair would do well to emulate a less-heralded prospect that has impressed Tippett with his attention to detail.

“(Jordan) Martinook has really played well,” Tippett said of the 2012 second-round pick. “He plays with good structure, he plays hard, plays fast. He doesn’t have the dynamic side that Duclair has handling the puck but you see him in the game, he’s a very efficient player.”

Even though he used Martinook’s shorthanded goal to tie up the game in the third period in Los Angeles on Tuesday as an example, Tippett’s point is that there are many ways a player can impact a game besides offense.

Duclair appears to understand this.

“I think I’m having a pretty good camp so far but there’s still lots of work to be done,” he said.

If Duclair can complete that work to Tippett’s satisfaction, the possibilities are enticing while playing alongside Domi. Duclair set him up perfectly on a 2-on-1 Thursday and the two clearly feed off each other’s creativity and speed.

“We’ve known each other for years now, we know where each other is on the ice, we like to talk a lot and we have definitely built up some chemistry over the years,” said Duclair, who was Domi’s teammate with Canada at the 2015 World Junior Championship. “I don’t know how to describe it, it’s just there.”

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Duclair’s all-around game will be key to making Coyotes’ roster