Alexis Lafreniere, Broadway’s next big star took center stage (… center zoom?) on Tuesday night when the New York Rangers drafted him first overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Long regarded as one of the premier prospects in hockey, Lafreniere has been on scouts and fans radar for a few years now. He has some of the silkiest hands of any prospect in recent years and he sees the game at an entirely different level than anyone else on the ice. He also doesn’t shy away from the physical side of the game and isn’t afraid to use his body to finish a check. The Rangers have been rebuilding for just about two seasons now and after adding star winger in the making Kaapo Kakko last year, they now add a superstar in the making in the Quebec born Lafreniere. What does this mean for the rebuild going forward and where does he fit in the lineup? Let’s dive in.
For those unfamiliar with Alexis, he is the only back to back CHL player of the year besides some guy named Sidney Crosby. He averaged about two points per game in his CHL career playing for the Rimouski Oceanic and at times it just seemed he was toying with his opponents out on the ice. He can dangle, he has exceptional on ice vision, he’s a leader… he deserves every amount of praise possible. He is the complete package and everything you could possibly want in a top line winger in the NHL. Many consider him the best prospect since Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews and when any player is spoken of in that company you know they’re going to be special. The Rangers have had some incredible lottery luck the past two years and Lafreniere sets their rebuild into total overdrive. He will be a superstar on Broadway from years to come.
Lafreniere will never see time in Hartford so let’s throw that out the window right now. He will be pencilled into the top-nine forward group as soon as training camp begins in, hopefully, December. Lafreniere will most likely see top-six forward time this season but Rangers coach David Quinn won’t immediately hand it to him. He’s going to have to earn it and when he does you can be sure that someone like Chris Kreider or Pavel Buchnevich is going to be asked to either change side or slide down the lineup. Artemiy Panarin isn’t switching sides and Kaapo Kakko should be allowed to continue to develop on his proper wing.
Lafreniere immediately brings even more high end skill to a team that has so much of it in spades. Lafreniere, along with Panarin, Kakko and Mika Zibanejad will be looked at to be the offensive focal points of the Rangers in the coming years as they make their way back to Stanley Cup contention. Lafreniere, if he hits his ceiling, will most likely be an 80-90 point player in his prime that can drive a top line and break through opposing defenses with ease and the Rangers are counting on that. No prospect is ever truly a sure thing but Lafreniere comes extremely close to that. He’s the closest thing you can get to a sure thing in the NHL draft.
Lafreniere represents one of the greatest leaps forward in the Rangers rebuild yet. The signing of Artemiy Panarin last summer gave the Rangers a superstar to strike fear into their opponents. The drafting of Kaapo Kakko gave them another potential star winger to build around and provide some nice offense. The drafting of K’Andre Miller and Nils Lundkvist two years ago gave them some solid defenseman for the future. The Rangers could not have had a better path through this rebuild and soon, they will be back among the elite team with the league with a scary top six, a solid bottom six and a defense that can make the puck exceptionally well with a new franchise goalie in Igor Shesterkin ready to assume the mantle of the “Czar of New York.”
Welcome to New York Alexis Lafreniere and I hope to see you down the Canyon of Heroes sometime with the next few years.
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