It is no secret that winning the draft lottery and landing the number one overall pick is a dream come true for almost any sports fan. Sure, it means your team endured a few tough seasons to be put in such a position, but it’s also a gleaming beacon of hope that can add positivity to any grim situation.
This is the position the New York Rangers now find themselves in. Following an early exit from the Eastern Conference bubble in Toronto, fans found themselves turning to the draft lottery in hopes of a miracle. And miracle they received. Despite only having a 12.5% chance to claim the coveted first overall pick, the ping pong ball emblazoned with the blueshirts crest was the first plucked from the tumbler.
The New York Rangers haven’t picked first overall since the universal draft was adopted in 1969. The last time the Rangers ever picked first was back in 1965. Last year they came close when they drafted Kaapo Kakko with the second pick. With this pick the general consensus is that they’ll select Alexis Lafrenière, who is a dynamic winger who played for Rimouski Océanic in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
Who is Alexis Lafrenière?
Alexis Lafrenière is a 6’1, 192lb beast of a left winger who has the size and the skill to make the jump striaght to the NHL. Over three seasons in the QMJHL he put up 114 goals with 183 assists for 297 points over 173 games played. Those stats are similar to that of Connor McDavid when he played in the OHL (167GP/97G/188A/285P).
Lafrenière has represented Team Canada internationally 5 times totaling 34 points over 26 games. He has been named CHL player of the year for the second time in as many seasons. He is only the second player ever, behind Sidney Crosby, to achieve such a feat. Only three players have scored more goals in the QMJHL before the age of 17: Sidney Crosby, Mario Lemieux, and Jimmy Carson. Needless to say, the kid can flat-out play.
Look past the stats to some highlights and you’ll quickly see what makes Lafrenière so effective on the ice. He is a complete player with good hands and a strong skating ability. He has a nose for the net and possesses the scoring touch to finish plays.
Perhaps his strongest attribute is his vision with the puck. His ability to find open teammates in scoring position cannot be over-stressed. He moves the puck beautifully, as he carves up defenses and goaltenders with crisp passes, and always seeming to find the open man right at the last moment to capitalize on scoring chances. He’s smart, tough, and a competitor.
How does he fit in on the Rangers?
The New York Rangers, despite being in a rebuilding stage, are actually quite stocked in talent, both on the NHL side of things as well as the prospect pool. They have top notch players in Artemi Panarin and Mike Zibanejad, exciting young talent like Adam Fox and Igor Shestyorkin, and a solid pipeline of defensemen. They had an exciting season this year and seem to be right on the verge of being able to make some noise in the playoffs.
Lafrenière can play a game similar to Panarin, as they both play left wing, and he has expressed his admiration for Artemi. Its well known that the Rangers have a need at the center position but it would be foolish to pass up on a chance to secure an elite player like Lafrenière, as he is someone who knows how to move the puck and can add some valuable scoring depth to a team that regularly found itself in high scoring games in 2019-20.
With 234 goals for and 222 goals against, the David Quinn led bench sometimes struggled to outrace the opposition. In their bubble series against Carolina, they were outscored 11 to 4 over three games. A player with the tenacity and offensive mind of Lafrenière could be one of the last pieces needed to push this team to playoff success.