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Under pressure: Anthony Duclair

Arizona Coyotes v New Jersey Devils

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 25: Anthony Duclair #10 of the Arizona Coyotes skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 25, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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This post is a part of Coyotes day at PHT...

When the Arizona Coyotes traded defenseman Keith Yandle to the New York Rangers three years ago it was pretty clear that Anthony Duclair was going to be the centerpiece of the return.

When he burst onto the scene during the 2015-16 season and scored 20 goals, helping to form an exciting rookie duo with Max Domi, there was genuine excitement that the Coyotes were going to be major winners in the trade and get a long-term building block.

And they still might end up getting all of that.

But there is also no denying that some of that excitement probably cooled a bit this past season when Duclair took a significant step backwards in his sophomore season, finishing with just five goals in 58 games.

He remains the Coyotes’ only unsigned restricted free agent this offseason. Once he gets signed though there are some big questions as to what his role will be and what type of player the Coyotes are going to get.

The big red flag with Duclair’s rookie season success was the fact a lot of it seemed to be percentage driven as he scored on more than 19 percent of his shots. That is unsustainable scoring rate for pretty much any player in the league and made him a candidate for a pretty significant regression the next season.

That regression came in a big way with Duclair scoring on only six percent of his shots in 2016-17. That meant that even though he averaged the exact same number of shots on goal per game and posted similar possession numbers his goal scoring plummeted.

Duclair’s rookie season goal scoring success was almost unprecedented from a percentage standpoint. Since the start of the 2000 there have only been two players age 20 or younger that scored on more than 18 percent of their shots (minimum 100 shots). Duclair was one. Jordan Staal in 2006-07 was the other. Staal suffered a nearly identical percentage drop in year two (down to six percent, resulting in only 12 goals after scoring 29 the year before) before bouncing back in year three with 22 goals.

The key difference between Staal and Duclair, though, is that even without the goal scoring Staal was a more well-rounded player (a two-way center that played big minutes in all situations) that excelled in areas other than scoring. Duclair is not that type of player and scoring is going to be a major part of his value.

If he is still going to be a significant part of the Coyotes’ future it has to start with a bounceback season in 2017-18.