The annual event that pits the three Canadian Hockey League champions and a host team begins Friday. Duclair plays for the Quebec Remparts, who are hosting the event.
“It’s been a really long season but it’s also been lots of fun,” Duclair told ArizonaCoyotes.com. “I’m pretty excited for this tournament. We’re motivated and we’ve got enough gas left in the tank to play for the Mem Cup. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime so there’s no excuses not to be ready.”
|Anthony Duclair. Photo by Getty Images. |
Quebec nearly won the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League title earlier this week but fell short in Game 7 of its President Cup Final series vs. Rimouski Oceanic. The Remparts lost, 2-1, in double overtime.
“To see the league championship come down to just one goal and to lose it like that was very disappointing,” Duclair said. “At the same time, I’m very, very proud of my team and my teammates and how we handled ourselves, not only in that Game 7 but in the whole playoffs. We had a lot of pressure on our backs and I think we responded pretty well.”
Duclair stood out in QMJHL playoffs. In 22 games, the left winger from Montreal notched eight goals and 18 assists to rank fourth among all scorers with 26 points. On April 28, he notched five points (one goal, four assists) in a semifinal win over Moncton, and then in the finals vs. Rimouski he tallied four multi-point games.
“I think I’ve played pretty well and I stepped up my game in the finals as well,” Duclair said. “I’ve built some chemistry with (center) Kurt Etchegary and (winger) Adam Erne. We’ve been working well together. As a team, we’re playing unbelievably well from the goalie, to the ‘D,’ to the forwards. We have so much depth that we can be a real threat to the other teams.”
Those other teams vying for the Memorial Cup are Kelowna (champs of the Western Hockey League), Oshawa (champs of the Ontario Hockey League), and the aforementioned Rimouski (champs of the QMJHL).
|Anthony Duclair. Photo by Getty Images. |
Duclair’s season has been a very busy one filled with highlights. He began the year by earning a roster spot with the New York Rangers and he made his NHL debut on Oct. 9 vs. the St. Louis Blues. He scored his first NHL goal at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 27 vs. Minnesota in his seventh of 18 NHL games before returning to his junior team.
In late December/early January, he and fellow Coyotes prospect Max Domi led Canada to the gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto. A few weeks after that, he and the Remparts defeated the Shawinigan Cataractes, 3-2 in a shootout, to cap a special weekend of games as part of the inaugural QMJHL Winter Classic in St-Tite, Quebec.
The Coyotes acquired Duclair, who finished the QMJHL regular season with 15 goals and 19 assists in 26 games, on March 2 as part of the trade that sent defenseman Keith Yandle to the Rangers. Duclair learned of the transaction during the intermission of a game in which he was playing. Once the shock wore off, he quickly became excited to join the Coyotes – a team that likely will rely on a few prospects in the immediate future.
“I see only good things ahead for the Coyotes organization,” Duclair said. “There are some great prospects coming in to play and there’s great leadership already in place there. I’m really excited to get things going next year. Being ready physically for training camp is going to be huge for me. I know I’m not going to be getting as much (off-season) training as the other players, but I’m going to work my hardest to crack the lineup next year.”
|Anthony Duclair and Max Domi. Photo by Getty Images. |
For now, however, Duclair is focused solely on the Memorial Cup.
“My junior career is coming to an end and this is my last chance to win a Cup here after four years of not winning anything,” he said.
Duclair grew up in Montreal. He said he started playing hockey soon after learning how to skate at age two.
“Every time I came off the ice I started crying,” Duclair said. “My dad saw I had a passion for skating so at four years old he put me into hockey and I just loved it from the start.”
Growing up as a Canadiens fan, Duclair remembers idolizing Habs captain Saku Koivu. He also recalls how he had to choose playing hockey over playing soccer when he was 12.
“I had to make a tough decision but hockey was always my first passion,” he said.
The Coyotes are pleased he chose hockey.
"He’s a guy who’s ready to play for us now," General Manager Don Maloney said after the trade. "He’s played in the League and he’s starred in a major tournament. We’re excited to watch him take the next step."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here to visit the official web site of the 2015 Mastercard Memorial Cup tournament.