MONTREAL — At least one Montrealer put on a show on Tuesday night. Anthony Duclair has also waited a long time to give it.
The New York Rangers prospect's run of injuries across the past two seasons might mean he is high risk for Team Canada, but there's is no denying the high-reward part after his highlight-reel goal. In the second period, after gaining the zone with four Czech Republic defenders back and no linemate in sight, Duclair put the puck through his feet, cut around the last defender and jammed the puck under goalie Vitek Vanecek. It was a dazzling dangle, worth the price of admission for the few hundred fans who presciently picked live hockey over flicking on the TV to see Genie Bouchard (meet her) match. Duclair finished with a goal and an assist in Canada's 6-2 win.
"I had a little nerves tonight in the first period but after that I felt better," Duclair, who last season joined Detroit Red Wings prospect Anthony Mantha as the Quebec league's lone 50-goal scorers. It's the kind of move where if it doesn't work, you'll look like a fool. It worked in my favour. I had some speed. I knew I was alone and I tried that move and cut back in and it worked."
Duclair hit the 50 mark last season with the Quebec Remparts in just 59 games before sustaining a season-ending injury. He also played just 55 games in his draft year due to a high ankle sprain, which was why he was available when New York scooped him up at No. 80 overall. A player's injury history is something Hockey Canada must factor for since the roster cannot be changed once the world junior championship begins. At the same time, many have drawn a straight line from the national junior team being low-risk and then being low-reward as far as capturing the gold medal goes.
'Being in Montreal is a huge boost'
Suffice to say, Duclair was eager to cash in on the opportunity afford by playing right wing alongside top-10 NHL picks Sam Reinhart and Nick Ritchie. He's also 19 and will not have another shot at the WJC.
"It's been a tough stretch for myself, but at the same time it's going to be my last year of junior," said Duclair, who was skating just a few hundred metres from where his uncle and trainer, Farell Duclair, was once a football standout for Concordia University.
"I'd love to be part of this team with it being in Montreal, which is where I am from. Just having it in Canada is something special, but being in Montreal is a huge boost and a big motivator."
Competition for the scoring line spots will be intense. Reinhart, Ritchie and Calgary Flames No. 4 overall pick Sam Bennett had their moments. Canada had Connor McDavid and New York Islanders No. 5 overall pick Michael Dal Colle sitting in the stands. Potential returnee Nic Petan was also among the observers, as Canada will rotate players throughout the week with games in Sherbrooke, Que., on Wednesday and Thurday nights.
"We saw good things tonight from not only one guy [Duclair], but many guys on our team," coach Benoit Groulx sad. "Obviously it's positive. What we ask them to do is to play out of their comfort zone. Bring a lot of passion and be good in pursuing in the puck."
Still, with no assurances of who might be in the NHL come late December, there could be a place for a fleet 19-year-old forward who can manoeuvre by defenders without downshifting.
"My game is speed and skill," Duclair said. "Playing with guys such as Reinhart and Ritchie makes my job easier."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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