Alexis Lafreniere speed concerns appear overblown
Alexis Lafreniere has dealt with more than his fair share of criticism after three full NHL seasons. The scrutiny comes with the territory after being taken first overall by the New York Rangers in the 2020 Draft, and posting only 94 points through 222 career games to date.
To be fair, Lafreniere has not had the same amount of ice time and opportunities on the power play as other No. 1 picks in recent memory. Being a natural left wing, he’s struggled to find more minutes behind Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider, which has led to his transition to right wing this season.
Opportunities aside, Lafreniere has been criticized for poor offseason training habits and being slow. “His foot speed is lacking, the impressive hockey sense he displayed as a prospect hasn’t translated and there are too many games where you don’t notice him,” Harman Dayal of The Athletic wrote this offseason.
Well, thanks to the player tracking technology now available to the public with NHL Edge, those speed concerns appear to be overblown.
Alexis Lafreniere playing with speed
Before the season started, a knowledgeable source told Forever Blueshirts that speed was not considered a strength of Lafreniere’s game. The feeling was he needed to improve on keeping his feet moving more than anything else.
Coming into this campaign, Lafreniere was asked about his offseason training and if he focused on any one area. “I skated a lot (this past summer),” he revealed. “I tried to work on some different things with my skating. I’m just trying to get better, faster, and a little more agile.”
Apparently, the extra work is paying off.
According to NHL Edge, Lafreniere is clocking in at 21.53 mph, which is in the league’s 65th percentile as of 10/26. Additionally, he’s showing much better quickness by ranking in the 68th percentile for speed bursts of 20 mph or better.
The 22 year-old is off to an excellent start with 3 goals in 6 games, all while transitioning from his natural left wing to the right side. In Tuesday’s 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames, he registered just his fourth power play goal in his career, which makes his five-on-five scoring notable. Since he came into the league in 2020-21, his 43 goals are third most on the team to Chris Kreider’s 48 and Artemi Panarin’s 44.
Of course, the always smiling forward is attributing a lot of his success to new line mates Artemi Panarin and Filip Chytil.
“The season is still really young, but to get some games with the same guys is really good,” Lafreniere said. “Obviously, Fil and Bread are amazing, so it’s really fun to play with them.”
So far this season, he appears to be doing that and much more. If he can keep this up, the 2023-23 campaign may become the “Alexis Lafreniere Apology Tour” for many critics.