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The Sports Daily > The Oilers Rig
Buying Low On Anthony Duclair

Friend of the blog Jonathan Willis wrote a tremendous piece over on Sportsnet yesterday outlining why Arizona’s Anthony Duclair could be a hidden gem on the trade market this winter. While I encourage you to read the piece in its entirety, Willis essentially says that Duclair’s rough 2016-17 season obscures a pretty good player that produces well at five-on-five.

Willis points out that Duclair outperformed his team in terms of on-ice results even during a tough 2016-17 season.

Last season, which was a mammoth disappointment, he still outperformed the team average. Over 172 games with one of the league’s worst teams, Duclair has actually been on the ice for more goals for than against, which is difficult to do.

On top of that, Willis points out that, through nearly 200 NHL games, Duclair has scored goals at a top-six rate.

Over his 190-game NHL career, Duclair has scored 0.66 goals/hour at even-strength. That number won’t mean much in isolation, but it’s about average for a middle-six forward in the NHL. Last season, Henrik Zetterberg, Sam Gagner and Nick Bonino all scored exactly 0.66 goals/hour at even-strength.

That’s just a taste of Willis’ work, which is far more in-depth and includes some useful charts. You can view the whole piece, which again I encourage, by clicking the link above.

So, is Mr. Willis right? Is Anthony Duclair a hidden gem and, more importantly, should he be a buy-low option for the Edmonton Oilers are we approach the trade deadline?

Edmonton Has Needs:

Up front, the Oilers have some serious needs. Chief among them is the need for more scoring on the wings. The Oilers get some of the worst production from their wingers in the entire NHL and have struggled to find goals from the position all year long. With Jordan Eberle now gone, the Oilers don’t have a single sniper patrolling the wings for Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

If the club is ever going to turn this around, they’ll need to change that. Due to a lack of cap space, that change is likely going to have to come from value contracts (Patrick Maroon last season) or diamonds in the rough (potentially Duclair). The Oilers will need to find two or three scoring wingers between now and October, meaning they should probably get a move on and try to find one during deadline season.

Specifically, especially if they are going to have to move Maroon, the Oilers should be looking for a left-winger to help out. Ideally, they add a left and right winger prior to next season, but one at a time. Baby steps, right?

A Look At Duclair:

This is where the man they call “The Duke” comes in handy. Formerly the crown jewel in the package the Yotes got from New York for Keith Yandle, Duclair fell out of favor in Arizona last season and has struggled to recover his ice time even as his play as improved and rebounded.

The Coyotes, according to multiple reports, are open to trading Duclair and are trying to give him a fresh start. This is a situation where a good player could be had at his lowest value. Buying low 101 if you will.

A left-shot winger who, obviously, plays left-wing, Duclair fills an immediate need for the Oilers. Not only that, but Duclair has impressive speed and carries a high skill level with him. As Willis mentioned in his piece, Duclair is a goal scorer and possesses a pretty damn good shot. Those are all things sorely lacking from the Oiler roster.

Duclair burst onto the scene in 2015-16, scoring 20 goals and adding 24 assists for 44 points in 81 games in his rookie season for the Coyotes. Along with Max Domi, Duclair was part of a young Arizona team that many thought would emerge last season. That never happened, as Duclair struggled and posted a mere 5-10-15 in 58 tilts. He also saw an AHL stint in Tucson, going 1-7-8 in 16 contests.

This season, things have been better, Duclair has posted 9-6-15 in 33 games, just off a half point-per-game pace and at a 20 goal pace. On a bad Coyotes team, Duclair is rebounding this season and rediscovering his scoring touch. I don’t think it is crazy to assume that going to a better team with better centers to set him up would only help.

This is a player that very well could score 25 goals in the right situation next season.

Here’s a look at Duclair’s scouting report via The Hockey News.

ASSETS:
Is a natural scorer with a quick release and the smarts to be in the right place at the right time when on the ice. Owns the hands of a surgeon. Can line up on either side of center.
FLAWS:
Needs to get bigger and stronger physically in order to survive the rigors of the pro game. Must also continue to work on his defensive game, which is still somewhat lacking.
CAREER POTENTIAL:
Natural scoring winger with good upside.

Final Thoughts:

The Edmonton Oilers have to find a way to recover the talent they have bled out over the last three summers. Trading Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall without replacing either has hurt the Oilers this season, and without any forward help from the prospect system, the offense has struggled all season long. A trade like this could help make things better.

As Willis points out, Duclair is a better player than the results show, and his skill-set is a perfect fit for what the Oilers are currently lacking on their roster. A trade like this could help replace the offense lost from the Eberle trade in the summer, and could move Peter Chiarelli slightly closer to most people’s good graces.

The Oilers, and the rest of the NHL really, will have a chance to buy-low on a pretty damn good bet. The asking price could be low at this point, making this a worthwhile endeavor. That’s especially true for a team like Edmonton, that really has nothing to lose at this point.

Could Ryan Strome get you Anthony Duclair? It’s two formerly highly-touted players switching spots, with both contracts expiring after the season.

Either way, the Oilers should absolutely examine the Anthony Duclair situation in Arizona.

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