Rangers Roundup: What to make to make of benching Alexis Lafreniére, and Chris Drury AGM for Team USA

alexis lafreniere
Nov 5, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; New York Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere (13) skates during warmup against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Alexis Lafreniére found himself in head coach Gerard Gallant’s doghouse again in the 1-0 loss to the Nashville Predators on Sunday.

“I gave him a seat,” Gallant said of Lafreniére, “He wasn’t the only one.”

There is a planet sized telescope in New York concerning Lafreniére because he is the team’s only first overall pick in the modern NHL draft.

Benching Lafreniére

In his last two games, Lafreniére has played only 9:18 (NSH) and 9:53 (BUF). No fuss was made after the win against the Sabres, probably because he scored the game-winning goal. However, looking at his TOI in December you can see a clear downward trend line.

December TOI breakdown:

  • 12/1 13:31 (NYR 4 v PHI 1)
  • 12/3 13:42 (NYR 1 v SJ 0)
  • 12/4 12:27 (NYR 3 v CHI 2)
  • 12/7 11:13 (NYR 6 @ CHI 2)
  • 12/8 11:36 (NYR 3 v COL 7) – assist
  • 12/10 9:53 (NYR 2 @ BUF 1) – goal
  • 12/112 9:18 (NYR 0 v NSH 1)

It’s clear that Gallant is riding his top two lines, and the reality is that Lafreniére ranks third on the team’s depth chart for left wings. Rightfully so, as Artemi Panarin leads the team in scoring with 32 points and Chris Kreider leads in goals with 17.

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Dec 10, 2021; Buffalo, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) takes a shot on goal during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

While it may seem frustrating that the Rangers first overall pick is getting diminished ice time, he’s still gaining valuable experience. It was obvious that Alexis struggled a bit against a heavy hitting Predators team. He was forced into some turnovers and did not win his puck battles.

Anyone who watched Sunday would have also seen Kaapo Kakko and Dryden Hunt benched for stretches too.

Lafreniére is just 20 years old and playing in his second season (first full 82) in the NHL. Most other #1 prospects land on awful teams lacking talent, and thus get tons of playing time. That was not the case with the Rangers when they won the lottery in 2020.

New York was a team on the up and Lafreniére is already experiencing winning in his second pro year. For the record, this will only be game 84 of his young career. He has 29 points, with 18 goals.

Chris Drury named AGM of Team USA

Team USA has announced Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin will guide the squad at the Olympics. Chris Drury has been tabbed as his assistant.

Team USA Press Release:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Bill Guerin, who has quickly reshaped the NHL’s Minnesota Wild in his three years as the team’s general manager, has been named general manager of the 2022 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team it was announced today by USA Hockey.

In addition, Chris Drury, who is in his first year as president and general manager of the New York Rangers, has been named assistant general manager of the 2022 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team.

“It’s certainly great to have Bill and Chris working together in building our Olympic team,” said Pat Kelleher, executive director of USA Hockey. “They were exceptional players in their day, both played in the Olympics, and today they’re accomplished leaders of NHL clubs. Our team is in good hands.”

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