Unfair and ridiculous comparisons to first round busts being made about Alexis Lafreniere

On paper Alexis Lafreniere is struggling.

There’s no getting around that fact. This was highlighted by Frank Seravalli at TSN in his Friday Five column.

To say it’s been a tough go for Alexis Lafreniere in Rangerstown would be an understatement. With one goal and no assists in 15 games, Lafreniere is off to the worst start for a No. 1 overall pick since Patrik Stefan in the 1999-2000 season – and one of the worst of all time. Even then, Stefan had three goals and seven points in his first 15 games. Nail Yakupov, the No. 1 pick in 2012, also made his debut in a shortened season and finished with 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games. Yakupov had five goals and nine points by this point. Remember, Lafreniere, the 2020 Canadian World Junior hero, was expected to potentially have a 60-point impact as a rookie. The Rangers have struggled, and some have wondered about Lafreniere’s speed and stamina contributing to his skid, but confidence has to be a factor at this point.  


Alexis Lafreniere compared to first round busts

The New York Rangers first overall pick, and their only truly legit first overall selection in the modern draft era, has one point in 15 games. You can’t sugarcoat that, and fans need to stop blaming David Quinn for his offensive struggles.

Five on five, Lafreniere ranks 6th on the team with 183.25 minutes. That’s 87 seconds more than Chris Kreider. At one point he was 4th overall but Kaapo Kakko has progressively gotten better and is now a fixture on the team’s second line.

Regardless, to compare him to Patrik Stefan and Nail Yakupov is unfair on many levels. But first and foremost, Lafreniere didn’t land on a team without talent or legitimate options at forward like those two did.

Stefan and Yakupov were placed on top lines and power play units regardless of their play. While they are all currently averaging around 14 minutes per game in their first seasons, the circumstances are completely different.

Unfair criticism for Alexis Lafreniere

alexis lafreniere
Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

As good as a prospect Alexis is, he’s not at this very moment better than Artemi Panarin or Chris Kreider at LW. The 19 year-old is playing on a third line that also lost a very good center in Filip Chytil to a long-term injury.

Playing him at RW is no better considering that you would be taking away time for a surging Kaapo Kakko. While Pavel Buchnevich has struggled himself, he’s still battling and a key player for the Blueshirts.

Let’s also look closer at this shortened season to the one played in 2012-13 that Seravalli mentions for Yakupov. In that 48 game season it was reduced due to a lockout and they played Western opponents 3 to 4 times, except the Canucks and Avalanche 5 times. No pandemic was still raging during that campaign either.

This season Lafreniere is facing some of the toughest opponents in the NHL 8 times. The Capitals, Bruins, Flyers, Islanders, and Penguins are all considered contenders. The Devils are a fierce rival, and the Sabres would be the only reasonably easy team to beat. Coincidentally that’s the team Lafreniere has his only point/goal against.

The schedule in the East Division is filled with two game home-stands. The Oilers that season only played the same opponent back to back twice all year. When each meeting is a mini playoffs series, the play is harder.

Finally, while I agree with Seravalli that speed has been an issue for Alexis so far, it has more to do with his ability to find it in the NHL. He’s a great skater, but I see him running out of room fast so he’s still adjusting. When it comes to the comment about his stamina, one team source called it simply, “absurd.”

This is a trying season for every player and the Rangers are still very much in “the process”. We don’t need unfair and ridiculous comparison’s like this for a young kid who has played very well defensively. That will make him the complete package once the goals and points start flooding in and they will.

I stake my reputation on it.

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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