Peter Laviolette helping Alexis Lafreniere grow this season
Alexis Lafreniere got off to a great start for the New York Rangers this season. In October, he found himself on a three-game goal scoring streak. In November, he was able to tally ten points (4G-6A). The former first overall pick was finally starting to find his game and pile on the points. One of the main factors of Lafreniere’s success this season has to be attributed to Peter Laviolette.
Over the course of his career with both David Quinn and Gerard Gallant, Lafreniere was never given a fair shot. He was constantly stashed on the third line, sometimes even fourth, and was never given ample power play time. In his first three seasons, he averaged 13:52, 13:59, and 15:13 minutes of time on ice per game.
Under Peter Laviolette, he has averaged 16:51 of time on ice per game and has been a mainstay on the Rangers power play. It is no coincidence that he is having his best season of his young career. Thus far, he has amassed 9 goals and 17 points in 30 games. He is also on pace for a career-high in goals (25) and points (46).
What this does not mention is that Lafreniere has slumped in the month of December. Prior to his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he had not scored in 12 games and had only 4 assists in that time frame.
Peter Laviolette helping Alexis Lafreniere excel
What makes Laviolette different from the previous Rangers’ coaches is that he did not give up on the 22-year-old forward. Despite the lack of scoring, he stuck with Lafreniere and allowed him to play his game. Before the game against Toronto, at the peak of the slump, Laviolette said, “I think (Lafreniere) is working hard. I really believe in him and the way he plays the game right now. I believe in that line. They’ve done good things consistently the entire year to this point. For me, it’s just a matter of time.”
Lafreniere would proceed to score a pivotal goal in the Rangers’ 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs. What Peter Laviolette did is give Lafreniere the confidence to go out and play his game. He now knows that so long as he is playing well, he will not get knocked down to the third line just because he hasn’t scored.
Giving a young player this type of confidence is critical for his development. Following the win against Toronto, Laviolette mentioned, “He’s been on point with his game the entire year. We’ve been really happy with him and how he’s playing. For me, if you’re doing the right things, it always turns around. It was nice to see him chip in tonight.”
The belief in Lafreniere’s game is something that he has desperately needed coming into his fourth season in the NHL. Now that he has it, he is finally earning the trust of the coaches along with his teammates. His line with Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck has been one of the best in the league. Despite his recent slump, they have still been very effective.
Hopefully, for Lafreniere, the goal against Toronto can jumpstart his game again in terms of production. He is an incredibly fun player to watch when he is scoring and producing at a significant rate. The decision by Laviolette to move him to the right wing has paid dividends for the Rangers. Having Lafreniere on the right side not only allowed him to fit into a top-six role, but also unlocked a new way of playing for the young forward.
Combined with playing with a superstar in Artemi Panarin and a great second line center in Vincent Trocheck, Lafreniere is putting together the best season of his career. As time goes on, expect him to get even more comfortable in his new-found role under Laviolette and watch him continue to develop his game.