COLUMBUS, OH – NOVEMBER 23: Anthony Duclair #91 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lines up for a face-off during the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 23, 2018 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

When the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Anthony Duclair, there was not much expected of him. Duclair was coming off of a very disappointing season with the Chicago Blackhawks.  As a result, Duclair received a one year $650,000 contract to go to Columbus. Now it looks like Duclair fills a hole that Blue Jackets have had for a while.

Duclair Succeeds In Filling Scoring Holes

The hole that Duclair fills is scoring from the bottom two lines. It was talked about a lot last season and was exploited in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blue Jackets relied heavily on top line scoring last season and when the Washington Capitals shut that down the team had no answer. As of now, it seems as if the solution is Duclair.

Duclair has already played in one more game than he did last season and it’s only December. Playing in just 24 games so far this season Duclair has already exceeded his goal and points totals from last season. The left winger is also on pace to have his best season since his rookie campaign in 2015-2016. Duclair scored 20 goals, 24 assists for a total of 44 points in 81 games that season with the Arizona Coyotes.

The former third-round pick has found that form once again in Columbus. Duclair already has eight goals and four assists this year. Unfortunately, Duclair has missed the last three games with an undisclosed injury. Considered day to day the Blue Jackets would like to see Duclair back as soon as possible. During his three-game absence, the Blue Jackets have a 1-2 record. Out of the 12 goals scored in those three games, four were scored by bottom six skaters.

The Key To CBJ Success

This is the reason that Duclair is the key to the Blue Jackets success this season. Players like Artemi Panarin and Cam Atkinson are going to score goals. However, where Columbus lacked historically was scoring from their bottom lines. When Duclair is on the ice, he now has the attention of the defense. As a result, this opens up the other players on the ice allowing them also to be productive.

Duclair The Under The Radar Sam Gagner

Duclair’s success will remind Blue Jackets fans of a recent player named Sam Gagner. While Gagner and Duclair aren’t similar in playing style or position the story is the same. Gagner was not expected to do much in the 2016-2017 season. However, he had the best season of his career with 18 goals, 32 assists for 50 points. It’s no coincidence that the Blue Jackets broke many franchise records that year as well during the franchise’s first 100 point season. If Duclair keeps with Ganger’s pace from that season, the Blue Jackets could have another franchise season.

In a season with the storylines centred around Panarin and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky Duclair has gone under the radar. Even though he has gone unnoticed by the Columbus media do not let that take away from the fact that he is a key to CBJ success. If the success continues at this rate, the Blue Jackets offense will be one of the best in the league. Columbus is currently ranked 7th in the league in goals per game with an average of 3.56. While Duclair is not responsible for all of that, he is responsible for the pick up in goal scoring from last season. Last season the Blue Jackets ranked 17th in the league averaging 2.88 goals per game. Gaining an extra goal is a massive part that the team has found success this early in the season.

If his season continues like this, expect the 23-year-old to be looking for a bigger contract. Duclair might look for something like the contract that Ganger received after his year in Columbus. Somewhere around three years $9.27 million mark. The same as the Vancouver Canucks gave Gagner. Time will tell if Duclair and the Blue Jackets can keep up the pace of the early season.

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