Rangers All-Star believes Alexis Lafreniere is ‘superstar in the making’

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no doubt that one of the most positive aspects of the 2023-24 season and Stanley Cup Playoffs for the New York Rangers was the breakout of Alexis Lafreniere.

The 22-yar-old forward established NHL career highs across the board with 28 goals, 29 assists and 57 points in the regular season, one that included an incredible five-point outburst against the Arizona Coyotes on March 30.

But Lafreniere’s real coming out party took place in the postseason. He tied for the Rangers lead with eight goals and was fourth with 14 points. In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, he scored two hugely important goals, that were equally spectacular on separate breakaways.

“‘Laf’ made hug strides this year,” Trocheck said Tuesday on breakup day. “I think he’s a superstar in the making.”

That would appear to be the consensus of the NHL world at large. Despite some fits and starts his first few NHL seasons, Lareniere is going to be a big-time star. And his play, this season especially in the playoffs, has certainly won over his many doubters.

“Just play with confidence, I think,” Lafreniere explained Tuesday about what clicked this season. “Trust my game a little more and go out there, try and have fun. Don’t think about anything else but competing and trying to play good hockey.”

Related: Kaapo Kakko’s future with Rangers big question this offseason

Alexis Lafreniere emerging as star for Rangers

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Florida Panthers
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, it was more than just trying to play good hockey that set the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft apart this season. And it sure didn’t hurt that coach Peter Laviolette moved him to the right side on a Line with Artemi Panarin — first with Filip Chytil in the middle, then Trocheck.

Panarin, Trocheck and Lafreniere all established career highs in scoring this season. When things were breaking down in the playoffs, Laviolette juggled lines but didn’t mess with that trio.

“[Lafreniere] has been pretty much set in stone with a couple of players, and that line has been extremely productive for us,” Laviolette explained during the second-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes. “He’s is a big part of that. I know he’s playing with some good players, but you can’t discount what he does as well, with his skill level and the way he’s grown. Even throughout the course of this year, I think he gets more confident and confident as the season grows and now the playoffs grow.”

Even when his star linemate Panarin, who scored 49 goals this season, faltered in the conference final and didn’t score until 1:40 was left in the decisive Game 6 against the Panthers, Lafreniere continued to drive play. He was not intimidated by Florida’s relentlessly heavy style and picked up the physicality himself.

Lafreniere led the Rangers with four goals in the conference final, scoring more than Panarin, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox combined (two). He, Trocheck (two goals, six points) and Barclay Goodrow (three goals) were New York’s most productive forwards against the Panthers.

As others wore down or were stymied by the Panthers, Lafreniere got better.

“His confidence, to me, grew the entire year, ” Laviolette said Tuesday. “I thought his playoffs were excellent. He was productive. He was physical. He was noticeable. He was an impact player for us.

“It was a really, really good year for him and we’re hoping even better next year.”

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

Mentioned in this article:

More About: