Watching Anthony Duclair and only Anthony Duclair for a single shift will tell one many things about the 19-year-old.
For starters, Duclair is incredibly dangerous offensively. When the puck is on his stick, it doesn't slow down his incredibly high-pace, high-octane style. A confident skater, Duclair plays with his head up, and anticipates the play incredibly well, picking out his moments and attacking.
And in those moments Duclair chooses to pounce, he puts it all together. Like on Monday night, when a pedestrian rush turned into Duclair going bar-down from an off-angle to beat Steve Mason and give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. The hands, the accuracy, the scoring touch--it was all on display.
Heck, you don't own a Maserati to drive it to and from the grocery store.
Yet for all of his offensive exploits, if you can single out Duclair and watch each one of his motions in the minute or so he's on the ice, and other elements of the prospect's game are apparent. Playing with pretty underwhelming linemates in Quebec and the QMJHL, Duclair has learned to create opportunities through his own effort. When he's gifted teammates that actually make him better, it's a sight to behold.
And while Duclair's strength is his play inside the opponent's blue line, he understands ice spacing and defensive accountability. There were moments when he looked to break ahead of the pack, while others when he backchecked and made sure not to leave the Rangers in a disadvantageous position.
All of this adds up to one simple summation: Duclair is ready to play in the NHL. Offensively, he's ready to contribute right now. Yet with what the Rangers have in terms of other NHL-ready talent, especially in the context of experienced players, and Duclair might missed out based on numbers. That's to no fault of his own.
"Going back to juniors wouldn't be a downgrade at all. It's just a question of development," Duclair said after the game. "I'm still a kid, I'm still 19 years old. There's still a lot of things I need to work on."
Alain Vigneault has been clear in how he wants to handle this situation. If the Rangers are going to carry a younger player, like a Duclair, the player is going to be part of the gameplan. Duclair won't be kept in New York to be the 13th forward, wearing a suit and sitting the press box. In fact, there's a good chance unless he carves out a role for himself on at least the third line, there's no spot to be won whatsoever.
Which complicates things even forward for the prospect, who scored his second goal in as many preseason games Wednesday night. From the periphery, he's not usurping the likes of Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, and Martin St. Louis, the Rangers top four wingers.
So jump down another peg, to that aforementioned third line. Carl Hagelin seems like a pretty safe bet for a job as a winger. Which leaves one (singular; one) potential job for Duclair to win. He's doing everything within his power short of blackmail to make it his job, but it's him versus the roster.
Yet moments like the ones he created Monday night continue to make fans and management alike continue to ponder the "what ifs" and scenarios to fiddle Duclair into the mix. Bump Lee Stempniak down to the fourth line, keep Kevin Hayes in the middle (or off the third line, or in Hartford), and maybe, just maybe, Duclair has his opening.
The lineup the Flyers played Monday night wasn't exactly chocked full of NHL talent (it was very absent of it, in fact) yet that doesn't change tendencies. The explosiveness he showed also doesn't simply disappear against stiffer competition. Where Duclair ends up remains to be determined, yet it no longer is a question of if he has what it takes to play in the NHL, but rather when we'll see that.