Alexis Lafrenière looks ready to prove all doubters wrong this season
Alexis Lafrenière still has that boyish smile and look of awe in his eyes. His positive attitude is infectious and the veterans on the team appreciate it.
“He loves being here, he loves playing hockey,” said potential captain Chris Kreider. “He’s quick with a joke – until the puck drops, and then he competes as hard as anyone I’ve ever played with. He’s concerned about winning hockey games and he’s going to do the things it takes to win hockey games.”
Yesterday, Gerard Gallant gave us a glimpse at what his first line to start the season could be when he put Lafrenière on the right wing with Kreider and Mika Zibanejad.
“He put in the work last season and this summer,” Zibanejad noted. “I feel like he’s allowing his skill set to come out even more now. I could see that just from the hour scrimmage. I’m super excited.”
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Alexis Lafrenière had a tough rookie season
The Rangers happy young superstar had a tough season, even though his demeanor never showed it. It started with a limited training camp that had no exhibition games. The pandemic further compounded the issues as he was unable to see his family for over 8 months.
Early last season, with Alexis having only one goal in 15 games, TSN made comparisons to him with other first round busts like Nail Yakupov and Patrik Stefan. Not only was that unfair, it was ridiculous. Never were considerations like dealing with a pandemic, playing home and home series in the most brutal division in hockey ever properly weighed.
In the end, he finished last year strong with 21 points in 56 games thanks to 13 of those points coming in the final 25 games of the season. Lafrenière also scored 8 of his 12 goals in the team’s final 23 games. That finish has new coach Gerard Gallant considering him for a top six role, which appears to be moving from his traditional LW to the RW this season.
“You’re much more on your backhand, I feel like, but you gotta be able to play both wings” Lafreniere said about his move to the right. “Me and Chris have talked about it a little bit. We both feel comfortable so we’ll still try to figure it out and get better for the season start to be comfortable.”
Lafreniere hit the gym, got leaner and faster
The kid affectionately known as Laffy, was excited to get back to the team for his first real full camp. He comes in looking a lot more sculpted than he did in his rookie year.
“I got a little faster, I would say that was the main thing. I lost a little bit of weight, and that helps, too,” Lafreniere said yesterday. “I learned a lot playing in mens, it’s really different than juniors. I had the chance to play with and against good players. That’s the big thing and I’ll keep working on that.”
“I skated a couple of times a week this summer and was in the gym, too. That’s where you get a lot stronger,” he explained. “A mix of both of these things and it helps a lot for sure.”
Simply using his late season points per game average of .52 he is projected to score 42 points. If you account for playing a full season on the top line with adequate PP1 time, Lafrenière could easily score 60 points as a sophomore.
If you look at his 8 goals over the final 23 games of the year, the kid could flirt with 30 goals in 2021-22. Anyone who watched Alexis late in the year saw a player who could score with finesse or getting dirty in front of the net.
His teammates certainly believe he can, and it’s not just because of his talent.
“The most impressive thing about him is he’s unapologetically himself, regardless of what’s happening,” Kreider said. “He’s a bright, happy dude who loves to play hockey. He’s loves being here… He’s mature beyond his years, on the ice and in the room…He’s concerned about winning hockey…we’re incredibly lucky to have him.”
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