The Rangers have yet to announce their final round of cuts, but rumors are swirling that Monday's announcement of the team's opening night roster will include a pair of surprises.
Hayes, the prized college free-agent signing of the summer, was considered to have a realistic shot to make the team coming into camp, but the 19-year-old Duclair was the longest of long shots. He made the most of his chance, however, impressing with his speed and ability to find the back of the net on a consistent basis (three goals in five preseason games), and earning the 2014 Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award, which is given to the best New York rookie in training camp, as selected by the media.
That's something few would have expected when the 5' 11" 187-pound left wing dropped to the third round of the 2013 NHL draft. On talent alone, Duclair should have been selected in the middle of the second round, but his stock dropped after he was suspended for one game in January ’13 by his junior team, the Quebec Remparts, over concerns about selfish play. A more mature, more focused Duclair turned it around last season.
It's worth noting that the Rangers will probably use more than the standard nine games—after which point entry-level contracts go into effect—to determine if Duclair is ready for a full-time job. A quirk in his agreement means that he will burn a full year off his entry-level deal whether he sees action or not, so the team might as well play him as much possible.