It isn’t often that a player competing at the U20 World Junior Championship gets the chance to play those games in his hometown, but Quebec Remparts forward Anthony Duclair just might get that opportunity when the 2015 edition of that tournament begins in late December.
Duclair, a Montreal native, took part in Hockey Canada’s Summer Development Camp that was held primarily in his hometown earlier this month. The camp is a first step in helping Team Canada’s coaching staff decide which players will ultimately be a part of that country’s World Junior squad come December 26th, although the final decisions won’t be made until the Selection Camp in early December.
Coincidentally, Canada is one of the teams that will be based in Montreal during the preliminary round of the 2015 WJC, with those four games taking place at the Bell Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens.
Indeed, Duclair has all the motivation he needs to secure a WJC roster spot.
“It’s an honor, obviously, if you get invited to one of these events,” said Duclair. “It’s obviously a special feeling, and just having this event here in my hometown is even more special and motivates me even more to make the team.”
Duclair had the opportunity to don Canada’s colors in a pair of exhibition games during the summer camp. He didn’t waste the opportunity, posting a goal and two assists in his two appearances, including a memorable goal against the Czech Republic in a 6-2 win (see video below).
Competing in front of family and friends is another facet of this event that is stoking Duclair’s push to make the Canadian squad.
“I played Friday in front of some friends and family, so that was pretty special,” beamed Duclair. “Anytime you put that Canadian jersey on, it’s a special feeling.”
Of course, along with the hometown pride comes the pressure of competing for gold in front of rabid hockey fans looking for Canada to end their five-year gold-less drought at this event. While Duclair is mindful of this pressure, he doesn’t feel that he or his teammates will let it affect their game.
“Well, the outside pressure, we don’t worry too much about that,” admitted Duclair. “Obviously, there is a lot of pressure, we know that coming into the tournament. At the same time, internal pressure is more important than anything else; we expect a lot from each other, but so does everyone else. We’re pretty used to it, we’re a confident and mature bunch of guys, so we’ll be fine, I think.”
Before Duclair can think about potentially competing for his country, he’ll be looking to impress the NHL team that drafted him, the New York Rangers, when that team’s players assemble in early September for training camp. The Rangers chose Duclair in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
Duclair has already been through one training camp with that club, as well as a pair of summer prospect camps. He enjoyed the camp in early July, but is taking a business-like approach to the main camp in September.
“It was really good, it was my second time through, so having the experience from last year, I felt a little more confident this year,” said Duclair of the prospect camp. “I’m going to go to Traverse City in September, and go to main camp after that and see where it goes.”
Duclair has made definite strides in his game over the past couple of seasons, in part due to his being a part of the Remparts’ organization, one of the top clubs in the QMJHL. In 177 games so far for that club, Duclair has produced 101 goals and 114 assists for 215 points, including a 99-point season in 2013-14. Last season’s point total nearly doubled Duclair’s point total from the 2012-13 season when he posted 50 points.
The value of playing in a well run organization like that of the Remparts is not lost on Duclair.
“It’s been awesome,” said Duclair of his time in Quebec City. “Patrick Roy coached me for two years; it was an unbelieveable experience, and he’s taught me a lot about the game, about myself. Then having Philippe Boucher (as coach), who was also an NHL veteran and won the Stanley Cup, obviously helped me a lot, as well. So, I’m really blessed to be coached by some great people, and just being surrounded by some great players, as well, so it’s been a fun three years and I’m excited to get this season started.”
For obvious reasons, Duclair is seen as an offensive catalyst, but the forward thinks there is more to his game than just running and gunning.
“My strong suit would be that I’m offensive-minded, but I think I can be more defensive-minded, too,” stated Duclair. “I’m working on being more of a two-way player – obviously, if you want to make this (WJC) team, you’ve got to be good in your own end. Along the years, I’ve been relied on defensively, as well, so I’m working on both sides of my game.”
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