The Rangers announced on Tuesday that they would be sending prized prospect and NHL benchwarmer (does anyone else realize how ridiculous that sounds?) Anthony Duclair to the World Junior Championships, loaning him to team Canada for the duration of the tournament. This article was originally meant to be an argument in favor of sending Duclair to the tournament, but the Rangers announced the move faster than a slapper off the stick of Kevin Klein, so instead let's discuss why the Rangers made the right decision.
First of all, Duclair needs playing time, and it does not appear like the Rangers are set to have an opening in their lineup anytime soon. Once J.T. Miller came up from Hartford and showed the promise the coaches wanted to see out of him, Duclair's spot as a healthy scratch was essentially locked in. With Jesper Fast and Tanner Glass proving to be Vigneault favorites on the fourth line, and Lee Stempniak deserving to be in the lineup himself, Duclair found himself as the odd man out.
It would be counter-productive to Duclair's progression and development to have him sit in the press box or work out in the team gym and watch the games rather than getting in games, but the team could not send the 19 year old to Hartford, so the choices were sending him back to his junior team, or scratching him until a lineup spot opened up.
That's where the World Junior Championships come in, as the tournament gives Duclair a chance to not only play, but to return to being one of the best players on the ice. Being a constant healthy scratch cannot be good for Duclair's confidence, and the Rangers do not have the luxury of waiting on Duclair to regain his confidence and will to outwork and outplay opponents in the NHL if and when he returns to the lineup. After the tournament the Rangers will likely get a motivated and confident Duclair, ready to play when the opportunity arises.
One more benefit of Duclair going to the World Juniors is that it will help the development of both Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller. While unfortunately Alain Vigneault is enamored with Tanner Glass so one of the two will have to sit when Chris Kreider returns, both Fast and Miller will receive more playing time and greater opportunity to prove that they belong in the NHL for the long haul. Best case scenario Tanner Glass is eventually scratched while Fast and Miller-who have both said and shown that they like playing together-join Dominic Moore in forming a solid fourth line. Worst case scenario Tanner Glass remains in the lineup, while Fast or Miller gets regular fourth line time and the other is with the team, ready to play in case of injury.
Simply put, the Rangers have had one too many youngsters in need of playing time this season, causing a halt in the development in their prospects at times. Sending Duclair to the WJC allows the team to gain some consistency in the lineup, while helping the development of all three prospects at the same time.