Alexis Lafreniere taking ‘massive step’ for Rangers

NHL: New York Rangers at Chicago Blackhawks
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

NEWARK, N.J. — It feels like every night Alexis Lafreniere is showing flashes of brilliance for the New York Rangers. Here at the Prudential Center on Thursday, it was on full display, when Lafreniere scored two goals in a 5-1 win against the New Jersey Devils.

Lafreniere now has 16 goals in 57 games, the same total he had last season in 81 games. Thursday, he capitalized on a Devils turnover in the slot to score in the first period and then oozed with swagger, making it 4-0 late in the second period.

“He’s got a lot of confidence,” Rangers captain Jacob Trouba said postgame. “He’s obviously putting the puck in the net and he’s had a lot of opportunities to put the puck in the net when it hasn’t gone in. He’s a great player for us and he’s taken a massive step, especially this year.”

During their nine-game winning streak, Lafreniere has tallied five goals and three assists, hovering at a point per game, while inching closer to the 20-goal plateau, that he has yet to reach since joining the NHL in 2020-21. His 34 points are five off his career-high of 39 set last season.

“Everything he’s been through with his development and growth, he’s a great person who takes it very seriously and puts a lot of pressure on himself and he’s kind of running it with it right now. It’s great to see,” Trouba said.

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Alexis Lafreniere enjoying best NHL season with Rangers

NHL: New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils
John Jones-USA TODAY SportsCredit: John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Lafreniere has been a difference maker all season. His 4.06 expected goals per 60 on Thursday led the Blueshirts, and his 2.99 mark is a team high this season and ranks 25th in the League.

He is however still chasing his first career hat trick. The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft had the fourth two-goal game of his career and second this season. But Lafreniere has yet to see the hats be thrown over the glass in his honor.

Lafreniere was given the opportunity to add to his total Thursday, when coach Peter Laviolette elected to flip-flop him and Vincent Trocheck on the first power-play unit. But that third goal didn’t come for Lafreniere.

The 22-year-old wing tied Mika Zibanejad for the team lead with four shots on goal in his 18:12 of ice time against the Devils.

“He was playing well. I was just trying to get him out there more offensively,” Laviolette said.

It’s an area of the game where Lafreniere has not seen a lot of ice time this season. His 62 total minutes of ice time on the power play ranks fifth among Rangers forwards, as do his two goals and three points on the man advantage.

For a team that has been dying for a 5-on-5 play drive all season, Lafreniere has taken to that role. His 13 even-strength goals this season put him in the top nine percent of even-strength goal scorers in the league.

At the start of this season, many believed the Rangers would not be able to take that next step unless at least one of the kids stepped up. With Kaapo Kakko injured for a long period and Filip Chytil limited to 10 games before being lost for the season, Lafreniere has taken that massive leap forward, helping the Rangers to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

Steven Pappas is a North Jersey native who works as a news anchor and reporter at WHAM-13 in Rochester,... More about Steven Pappas

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