Anthony Duclair found hope close by last summer when he needed to be ready for his draft season.
The perception of a prospect's second junior season often turns on gauging how he would fit into a pro hockey environment. The Quebec Remparts left wing showed from early on in his rookie season that he had exceptional acceleration and speed and could process an unfolding play rapidly, although his size would be called into question. Duclair tapped into the knowledge of his uncle, former CFL fullback Farell Duclair, who runs a private school for athletes in Vaughan, Ont.
"I knew I needed to dedicate myself so I went and moved in with him and trained in Toronto," says Anthony Duclair, who has 47 points in 50 games for the Remparts despite a January swoon. "He knows what it takes to be a pro, He really wants me to be in the NHL, he's giving me tips and tools. We would go work one-on-one in park, doing a lot of sprinting and explosiveness."
The native of Pointe-Claire, Que., played on the AAA midget Lac St-Louis Lions with Halifax Mooseheads phenom Jonathan Drouin before coming to Quebec. (Both also honed their skating with former world figure skating pairs champion Barb Underhill.)
Players with Duclair's profile — a little undersized at 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds with high end school and decent but not dazzling offensive stats — typically fall into the late first to second round. There is a chance he could be an excellent value pick. Duclair's season has involved some extenuating circumstances. He scored eight points in the first three games of the season, then suffered a sprained ankle that kept him out for 5½ weeks, meaning he missed that early-season phase where 17-year-old players are given a lot of rope to prove whether they can handle a leading role.
"It was hard to come back from that injury. I lost my speed, agility and quickness," he says. "It's coming along."
After losing Mikhail Grigorenko to the Buffalo Sabres, the Remparts also went into a teamwide funk. Coach, GM and part-owner Patrick Roy even went so far to suspend Duclair and fellow draft prospect Adam Erne for one game for indifferent play after the Remparts got ripped 11-2 one night by Drouin, Nathan MacKinnon and the Halifax Mooseheads. However, Roy reinstated both before Quebec's next game.
Duclair had just two points across one 13-game stretch early in the new year. Of late, Quebec is 7-2-1-0 across its past 10 games. He's also had points in eight of their last 11 games during the stretch drive.
1. What is something about your coach, Patrick Roy, that might surprise people?
"He's honest. People think he's crazy and stuff, but he a strength of heart and he's really fair in how he chooses players. To have a guy like that coaching you is great."
2. Whom in the NHL do you watch closely because he/they play a game similar the one you'll need to play to reach that level?
"Skilled teams like Detroit, I look at them closely. Being a kid from Montreal, I always watch the Canadiens. I like hockey all-around."
3. At your age there is no skill you should neglect, but what is an area of the game where you hope you've improved during your draft year?
"My defensive zone coverage. I think people are aware of how skilled I am offensively, but at the same time you want to show that you're serious about being a two-way player and can play both ends of the ice. I take pride in that."
4. What teammates have influenced you greatly over your time in the Q?
"Definiitely the two veterans we had last year, Frédérick Roy [now with the AHL's Rochester Americans] and Mikaël Tam [now a San Jose Sharks farmhand]. They had a great leadership from their 4-5 years in the league. They really showed me the way"
5. A lot of the Q guys cite Le Colisée as their favourite road rink; so what's your favourite place to go into with the Remparts?
"Halifax. The fans there are great. I fell in love with the city when I first played here at Canada Games [in 2011]."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.