David Quinn said while he was watching the team at home during his battle with COVID-19, he saw Alexis Lafrenière getting frustrated. Upon his return, the head coach was looking for ways to invigorate the first overall pick in the 2020 draft and moved him to a line with Filip Chytil and Julien Gauthier. That was the first iteration of the kids line.
Alexis Lafrenière playing with more confidence and determination
Lafrenière picked up a goal in Quinn’s return behind the bench on March 28th. In the seven games with his head coach back at the controls, the 19 year-old rookie has three goals and four points. More importantly, he’s building a chemistry with fellow kids linemates as this iteration has Kaapo Kakko on it. Since being put together in the Rangers 8-4 romp of the Penguins three games ago, Lafrenière has two goals and looks ready to produce even more.
Last night, the kids line was a force. Whenever the trio took the ice it looked like the Islanders couldn’t keep up with them. Alexis Lafrenière, all of 19 years old, scored the opening goal assisted by Kaapo Kakko (20) and Filip Chytil (21). They finally broke through on the Islanders tight defense and Semyon Varlamov when Laffy cashed in a rebound.
“I think we’re getting more comfortable together as a line,” Lafrenière said about playing with Chytil and Kakko. “It was a nice play by Fil and Kap and the puck just bounced on my stick. I was at the right spot at the right time and lucky it went in.”
There was no luck about it.
What the kids did was beat the Islanders at their own game. They worked hard down low and got the puck to the front of the net. Both Chytil and Lafrenière followed the play and found the open ice at the side of the net. Either one could’ve slammed home the rebound but it was Alexis who got it done.
Expect more from Lafrenière the rest of the way
For Lafrenière he set a career high with 5 shots in the game yesterday. Among all NHL teenagers this season his seven goals ranks second and his 13 points ranks third. While a lot was made that he wasn’t scoring or playing enough in comparison to previous first overall selections; he’s starting to come along now.
In fairness, none of those players ever had to deal with conditions such as this. Alexis had not played a single competitive game in over 9 months due to COVID-19 shutdowns. He’s also alone and without his family who live in Quebec. Due to quarantine issues travel between the borders was prohibitive. Plus he’s on a team that already had talent stacked on LW and he’s in a nightmare division.
That’s why everything he’s doing now is even more impressive. His importance to the team is also starting to show beyond just plain stats. Per NYR Stats and Info, when Lafrenière registers a point the Blueshirts are 10-2-0 on the season; they are 6-1 when he notches a goal.
The kid’s been a winner wherever he’s played so there’s no reason for that to stop now. His confidence is growing and the Rangers are about to reap the benefits.
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