Alexis Lafrenière puts bust talk behind him this season

Let’s say “au revoir” to the Alexis Lafrenière bust chatter. Although his numbers aren’t eye-opening this season, the 2020 first overall pick has arrived. In his fourth season with the New York Rangers, Lafrenière has looked like a better player since switching to right wing. His line with Vincent Trocheck and Artemi Panarin has not only been the Rangers’ best but one of the best lines in the entire NHL.

In the past, when Lafrenière was not on the scoresheet, he had little impact on games. Over the past three seasons, Lafrenière struggled to create scoring chances for himself and looked a step behind with his skating. However, thanks in large part to coach Peter Laviolette, he is realizing his potential in 2023-24 and Lafreniere has been one of the Rangers’ most pleasant surprises, so far.

Lafrenière appeared in the top six occasionally under Gerard Gallant, who was reluctant to move him permanently from left wing and rarely off The Kid Line with Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko. Laviolette has shown confidence in the 22-year-old, playing him in the top-six on right wing all season. Lafreniere is averaging an NHL career-high 17:18 in ice time this season.

Related: Kaapo Kakko effective in return

Alexis Lafrenière generating offense

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Despite scoring only 11 goals this season, Lafrenière has had a significant impact on the Rangers’ success. His skating has vastly improved and on most shifts he is either creating prime scoring chances for himself or setting up Panarin, Trocheck and/or other teammates. Panarin is tied for fourth in the NHL with 60 points (27 goals, 33 assists) and Trocheck has been a point-per-game player with 43 points (14 goals, 29 assists) in 43 games.

On the forecheck, Lafrenière has been physical and not afraid to throw the body. There have been numerous games where he has been the best player on the ice. A far cry from when critics said the forward was unnoticeable too many nights last season.

Lafrenière got off to a hot start scoring goals in three straight games on the team’s early trip out west Oct. 21-26. He has sporadically suffered goal droughts since, but still has had a positive effect on games.

In a 2-1 win against the Washington Capitals on Sunday, Lafrenière broke his eight-game goalless streak to net the game winner. Just as important, he had five shots on goal, four of which were high danger, and drew penalties to get the Rangers power-play on the ice. 

“It was good,” he remarked afterwards. “I have had good looks lately but didn’t score. Today I got my rebound… Playing with ‘Troch’ and ‘Bread,’ you’re gonna get a ton of looks, but just got to try to score a little more.”

Lafrenière has benefited from elite talent on his line, but make no mistake, he has created numerous chances for himself. With better puck luck this season, he could easily see an increase in his current points-per-game average of .60, which has him on pace for an NHL career-high 50 points.

In his past five games, Lafrenière has recorded 19 shots including seven against the St Louis Blues last Thursday.

High expectations erupted this offseason for Lafrenière. Many media outlets stressed the importance of having increased offensive production from Kakko and Lafrenière in order for the Rangers to succeed. Lafrenière has risen to the occasion and begun to resemble the player that the organization envisioned when they selected him in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Stats via Hockey-Reference