Alexis Lafreniere starting to come into his own for Rangers
It wasn’t too long ago this season when criticisms and questions regarding Alexis Lafreniere and his development were an almost daily occurrence.
Back in January, it had reached a fever pitch with the former first overall pick in 2020 recording just two assists during an 11 game stretch from 12/20 to 1/16. At that time, he had recorded just 5 goals and 18 points through 44 games on the campaign.
“I keep saying he’s 21 years old,” Gerard Gallant explained after a healthy scratch in late December. “I’m not concerned about the kid. A lot of people are but I think he’s going to be a good player. He’s got the tools, and the talent. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that he doesn’t get the same opportunities as other kids get as a first overall pick. You can blame that on me or [David Quinn] but we’ve got star players ahead of him. We’re trying to win. That’s my goal.”
The veteran coach was right. And not only about Lafreniere coming on strong but the entire Kid Line with Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko as we near the playoffs.
Alexis Lafreniere coming into his own
It’s almost been a tale of two seasons for Lafreniere as he’s recorded 11 goals and 20 points in his last 32 games. Even better, with the postseason just around the corner, he’s heating up with 6 points (2 goals, 4 assists) in his last five matches.
As a line, the Kids are alright and have been praised by Gallant on an almost nightly basis.
Chytil has 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in his last 5 games and Kakko is picking up the pace with 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) in his last 5 games including goals in back-to-back contests.
However, it’s the increasing confidence with the puck that Lafreniere has been showing down the stretch that has caught my eye. That was demonstrated and highlighted with a gorgeous goal in the Rangers’ 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
On the play, he made a through the legs move to deke the defender and then snap it backhand by the goalie. More importantly, this wasn’t a one-off as he put on a similar show last season versus the Detroit Red Wings.
“Good play by Fil there and I had a lot of time,” Lafreniere said. “I tried to move and it worked. It’s not always about points but how we play offensively and being responsible defensively. Just play the right way and the points will come.”
Lafreniere’s comments after the game harken back to what NHL Network Analyst and former NHL player Mike Rupp told us about the Rangers’ development of their young players.
“Most first overall picks go to crappy teams,” Rupp said. “This isn’t a crappy team. This a team that was two games away from the Stanley Cup Finals. I actually think that these type of things will help Kakko and Laf long term. They can’t necessarily play the game they’re used to playing for this team right now because they’re not there yet. So if they want to play and be in the lineup, they have to provide something different. I see an increase in their compete level battling for pucks. I see an increase in that and they’ve been much better.”
Alexis Lafreniere has been coming strong lately and it’s going to benefit the Blueshirts when it matters in the playoffs.
Hey! It’s almost like leaving him alone and letting him development did the trick.