The two-month wait finally ended on Tuesday night as the New York Rangers selected the highly-touted winger, Alexis Lafreniere, with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
“It’s a big honor for me,” Lafreniere said. “Obviously, the New York Rangers are a big organization with a lot of history and a lot of great players. I’m really excited to join this team.”
The feel was certainly different as the selection process was held remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic with commissioner Gary Bettman housed within NHL Network studios in New Jersey rather than its originally-scheduled setting over the summer in Montreal.
Regardless, the Rangers are acquiring an immediate impact-maker to provide scoring and playmaking depth within their top three lines.
The 18-year-old Canadian was the undisputed top prospect within the Class of 2020, plying his trade at Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) over the past three seasons — posting big numbers throughout the process:
- 2017-18 (age 16): 60 games, 42 goals, 38 assists, 80 points
- 2018-19 (age 17): 61 games, 37 goals, 68 assists, 105 points
- 2019-20 (age 18): 52 games, 35 goals, 77 assists, 112 points
On the international stage, Lafreniere recently starred for the Canadian national team at the under-20 world championships earlier this year posting 10 points (4 G, 6 A) in five games.
Despite his age, this is a composed prospect with an incredible set of hands and above-average vision that will break down opposing defenses with relative ease once he finds his groove in the NHL.
His offensive offense is between the dots as a hard-nosed forward who isn’t afraid to drive to the net and single-handedly create pressure.
The initial expectation is that he can step in and immediately contribute 60-plus points in his rookie season with those numbers increasing as he matures.
As mentioned earlier this week, it is important to note that Lafreniere is not entering the NHL with such lofty expectations that compare him to Sidney Crosby or Connor McDavid, but this is still a player who can become a perennial All-Star.
Earlier this summer, NHL Central Scouting compared his game to Florida Panthers star Jonathan Huberdeau, who isn’t necessarily a household name for the casual NHL fan, but he’s one of the top playmaking forwards in the game having averaged well over a point per game since the start of the 2018-19 season.
Such a skillset would make Lafreniere a first-line left winger on most other NHL teams, but the Rangers could very well start the youngster on their third line behind Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin on the depth chart.