The Ottawa Senators 2018-19 season was quite the wild one. They finished dead last but also had lots to look forward to, despite not having their own first-round pick. Fans watched their favourite players be traded away but new possible favourites come back in return. One player that returned and made a name right away was Anthony Duclair. Now, Sens fans will have to keep realistic expectations for what Duclair should do this year.
Set Reasonable Expectations For Anthony Duclair
Duclair came over in the Ryan Dzingel trade and was more of a throwaway than anything else. However, he immediately made an impact and found some points early with the Sens. He had 14 points in 21 games with the last-place Senators, while only scoring 19 points in 53 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Duclair had a career-high in points at 44 in the 2015-16 season. Since then, he has struggled to find full-time big minutes in the NHL. Anthony Duclair is now on his 5th NHL team in just as many years. So, was his short bump with the Sens actually repeatable over a full season? Or will he fall closer to what we have seen in his career so far? Let’s take a look at some things that may help to predict that.
The Shooting Percentage of Anthony Duclair
First, we can take a look at his shooting percentage and location on Ottawa compared to his past. With the Senators, Duclair took 40 shots and scored on 20% of them (8 goals). Last season with the Jackets, Duclair shot just 12% and his career average shooting percentage is 13.7%.
So while he was slightly unlucky in Columbus, the numbers show he was also shooting at a very unsustainable rate in Ottawa. Even the elite shooters don’t shoot 20% over more than a season and it seems very likely that number will fall throughout the year. If he shoots at the same pace over 82 games next year he would take 156 shots. If we multiply that by his career average shooting percentage that would equal 21 goals.
However, that amount of shots would be based on what he did in Ottawa where he took almost 2 per game. Over his career, Duclair has taken an average of 1.45 shots a game. Using those numbers, he would take 119 shots and score on 16 of them.
Gaining confidence and shooting more could be key for Duclair if he wishes to hit the 20 goal mark this season.
Now, we can take a look at Duclair’s shot location relative to Columbus and his career average as well. From HockeyViz, below is Ottawa’s shot map when Duclair is on the ice.
The red means a high rate of shots are coming from that area. As you can see, while in Ottawa, Duclair had a high amount of shots come from right in the high-danger zone. This may explain a bit of the improvement in shooting percentage but not all of it.
Above is Duclair’s map while he was on the Jackets. Much more blue in the middle of the slot meaning it was harder to generate shots. Some of the increase may be because he played lots of his time in Ottawa with the very notable gritty player in Brady Tkachuk. Tkachuk isn’t afraid to get to the dirty areas and outwork opponents for the puck. Many times last year we saw Duclair reap the rewards of that by finding space and receiving a pass.
Here is Duclair’s isolated impact over the past three seasons. To find success, shooting more but also getting to the right place will be key for Duclair.
Real vs Expected Goals
Now, we can take a look at Duclair’s real vs expected goals. From NaturalStatTrick, we can see that Duclair was on the ice for 15GF and 10GA with Ottawa at 5v5. However, his xGF were at 9.3 while his xGA was at 11.3. What we can take from this is that Duclair was likely lucky when it came to both shooting and goals saved. The shooting percentage we know, however, with some searching we can see why the latter shouldn’t surprise us either.
Anthony Duclair has never been known as a defensive specialist. From EvolvingHockey, we can see that Duclair really struggles in his own end. His talent allows him to survive in the Ozone but his defensive struggles really show.
This can be overcome by using Duclair in the correct spot in the lineup. However, expectations need to be realistic. Fans and more importantly management can’t expect Duclair to be taking top matchups and shutting them down effectively. This defensive struggle means that Duclair needs to be used in a more offensive way to get the most of his talents.
Higher In The Lineup May Give Duclair a Chance
Now, let’s take a look at how and why Duclair could improve to become a constant and solid NHL player. One of the reasons he may get more of a chance is because of Ottawa’s roster. In Columbus, Duclair was having a hard time getting ice-time. He averaged 12:19 a game in Columbus, whereas in Ottawa he averaged 13:41 a game. Over a full minute more is plenty of time to make things happen in an NHL game.
As mentioned above he may also get a chance to play with better players higher in the lineup. While Columbus had a solid lineup, playing on Ottawa’s top line with guys like Colin White and Brady Tkachuk. This should no doubt be an improvement over playing with more bottom-six type players. Especially because Duclair’s game relies on high skill and speed both ways.
The last chance he could get would be playing more on the powerplay as well. He should be an obvious option for a PP1 guy this season, especially to start. This boost could help gain confidence but also see him put the puck in the back of the net more frequently.
Keep Up Good Habits
One of the biggest criticisms of Duclair’s game for former teams was his inconsistency. Some of this came from things like taking games off, sometimes stretches at a time. The key for Duclair this year will be to continue doing the small things right. It is what helped lead to success at the end of last season.
— Alex M (@nhlsensandstuff) March 27, 2019
What a play! Duclair with some great possession, Harpur floats one near the net and Tkachuk with a beauty tip to bring the #GoSensGo to a tie! #Isles lead quickly erased. 1-1. pic.twitter.com/TAX1V4Jvs2
— Alex M (@nhlsensandstuff) March 8, 2019
If Duclair is to be put with Tkachuk again this year it will no doubt be a hard checking line. Some of the small things Duclair did so well at the end of last year were things like crashing the net and looking for a rebound. As well, keeping his head up and controlling the puck until a smart play was made. Not trying to rush or force a play leading to a turnover.
— Alex M (@nhlsensandstuff) February 25, 2019
As for the 200-foot game, there is only so much you can do at times as a winger. But things like the play above is a good way to help yourself out. Coming back hard and covering up for pinching Dmen, which the Sens have plenty of, is a good way to improve the overall team game.
The Senators need to make sure to keep level expectations for Duclair. While he is already 24 years old, he can still grow his overall game. The talent is likely all there but the consistency needs to be there now. Helping develop that could go a long way and what better time to do it then in a season that will be all about growing for Ottawa.
If Duclair gets top-six minutes and powerplay time this season, it seems reasonable to expect him to be in the 15-goal and 35-40 point range at least. This is not a ceiling by any means if Duclair can round out his game who knows where his point totals could end up.
The important part is, the Sens need to remember that Duclair’s stretch with them last year is likely not what he truly is. The focus needs to be on the continuous development of both him and the younger players.