Is Alexis Lafrenière ready to take flight for the New York Rangers
There was a lot of hype when the New York Rangers won the NHL Draft Lottery to select Alexis Lafrenière first overall. Expectations were too high for the teen coming out of the QMJHL, who hadn’t played a hockey game in over 9 months due to the pandemic.
On February 20th, 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.
This coming season he has a huge opportunity to prove to the hockey world just why he was the unanimous choice for #1 in 2020.
Lafrenière strong finish may earn him top six role
Alexis Lafrenière didn’t sugarcoat his season and admitted that is wasn’t an easy one. However; the always upbeat kid from Quebec really enjoyed the experience.
“I think I’ve always been the same,” he told the press. “I’m just happy when guys have good games, when they make great plays. Just happy to be here for sure. And with the group we have, it’s always a lot of fun.”
He finished last year with 21 points in 56 games but managed 13 of those points in the final 25 games of the season. Lafrenière also scored 8 of his 12 goals in the team’s final 23 games. That strong finish has new coach Gerard Gallant considering him for a top six role, either at left or right wing.
“I’m definitely hoping for that,” Gallant answered a question regarding if Alexis will play on one of the top two lines. “I’ll talk to the kid and sees where he feels most comfortable playing and try to get him over there. You can put him with different lines and different people. I don’t think he’s got one spot where he wants to play – he’s like any other kid, he wants to play a lot.”
“You give [the kids] the opportunity and hope that they take advantage of the opportunity they get,” Gallant said at his intro presser. “We know we’ve got some very young, talented hockey players on our team. They’re going to get every opportunity.”
Lafrenière should take off this season
On October 11th, Lafrenière will turn 20 years-old and start getting closer to the lofty expectations set for him. The top pick in 2020 will be entering his second season and should improve drastically on last year’s numbers.
Playing with either Mika Zibanejad or Artemi Panarin will cause an uptick in production. However, with Pavel Buchnevich now in St. Louis, Lafrenière should also get increased power play time with the top unit.
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 two lines and 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.
This is a big year for Lafrenière, and one where he should put his critics in their place.
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