With the first overall pick in this year’s draft set (virtually) for October 6th, the Rangers are going to get an NHL-ready talent for their left-wing.
Alexis Lafreniere, the likely pick, has put up big numbers in the QMJHL and has separated himself from the rest of his draft class as a generational talent. Lafreniere has put up 297 points in 173 games in 3 years for Rimouski Oceanic, including 112 in just 52 games this past year (winning himself the QMJHL scoring title.) He’s been the MVP in the CHL for back-to-back seasons – the only player to do that besides Sidney Crosby.
In the U20 World Junior Championship back in January, Lafreniere put up 10 points in 5 games to lead Canada to a gold medal. He turned Rimouski Oceanic from a struggling, fringe 60-point team into a competitive playoff team for back-to-back years.
One of Lafreniere’s most attractive qualities as a player is his wrist shot.
His quick release makes it nearly unstoppable, and he’s able to use this shot from any angle – even from the goal line.
Lafreniere’s player comparison, according to Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com, is Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers. As one of the more underrated players in the league, Huberdeau registered 92 points in 2018-19 and put up 113 points in his first three seasons in the NHL (one of them being the shortened 2012-13 season).
So will Lafreniere make an immediate impact in the NHL? There are a couple of things that factor into this equation.
With Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin the top two left-wingers on the Rangers, it’s possible that Lafreniere will start the season like Kaapo Kakko did – on the third line.
There are positives and negatives to this. For one, Lafreniere will have to prove himself to get top minutes, which could bring out a serious competitive edge from the 18-year-old. And although the Rangers third line (that consisted of players such as Kakko, Brendan Lemieux, Filip Chytil, and Julien Gauthier among others) wasn’t too consistent this season, there could be some major changes between now and the start of next season.
David Quinn has never been one to shy away from different line combinations, and as the Rangers seek center-depth this offseason, there are many different possibilities of who Lafreniere could be playing with. If Lafreniere in fact proves himself and does earn top minutes, there will have to be some switches in position. It’s possible that Lafreniere could simply switch to right-wing. With Jesper Fast an unrestricted free agent likely departing this offseason, Lafreniere could take his spot on the right once he gains more NHL experience.
With all of the awards and hardware under Lafreniere’s belt, it’s hard not to get excited about what he could bring to a Rangers team that is hungry for the playoffs.
He holds a lot of promise and the Rangers future looks a whole lot brighter with Lafreniere on the wing.
Featured Image: ---