2020 NHL Draft prospect profile: Alexis Lafreniere scouting report

Alexis Lafreniere, Rimouski Oceanic (Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images)
Alexis Lafreniere, Rimouski Oceanic (Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images) /

The 2020 NHL Draft won’t happen for a while, but Alexis Lafrenière has separated himself as the consensus number one prospect.

I have done quite the research on previous drafts in the past. It is very easy to see how the draft is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to build your team up for the future, whether to speed up a rebuild or to keep a dynasty going. The 2020 NHL Draft is expected to be one of the deepest in years. Leading the way as the consensus number one prospect is Alexis Lafrenière.

If your team has the first overall selection, more often than not you’re getting an elite talent that can be the face of the franchise. Connor McDavid, Taylor Hall, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Marc-Andre Fleury were all selected first. They are all household names.

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Even if you don’t get a perennial player at that selection, you are almost guaranteed a very talented player, with the potential of consistent 60+ point seasons. Guys like Nico Hischier and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins comes to mind there.

It is almost guaranteed that you’re getting an NHL talent. Any sort of help is an addition to the roster that bolsters depth. If you utilize the selected player effectively, you get an even more effective player for a far cheaper cost than what could have been found in free agency. Teams also don’t need to trade for a player that would have filled the same hole in a trade, because that drafted player fills it.

That player could also give the team value in a trade. One example is a player who does not necessarily fit on the team after being selected first overall. That player may need a change of scenery and still holds a great amount of value for being the number one pick. The team could get quite the bundle in a trade involving that player. Ultimately, a number one pick gives the team a multitude of options to gain value and save money.

This season, Lafrenière is far and away the best prospect in the 2020 draft class. He has been ripping apart the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League at a ridiculous pace. Lafrenière is that player, and he is everything a team looks for when picking first overall.

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Lafrenière, born October 11, 2001, out of Saint-Eustache, Quebec, Canada, is a left-winger for the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL. The 18-year-old winger stands at 6’1″ and 192 pounds, giving him a solid frame that teams drool at, especially when that stature comes with incredible skill.

In 2017-18, Lafrenière made his QMJHL debut. He immediately took his place as an elite talent, recording 42 goals and 38 assists for 80 points in 60 games played. In the QMJHL postseason, Lafrenière posted an additional seven points (four goals, three assists) in seven games.

Upon that performance, he was invited to play for the Canada Red U17 team in the under-17 World Hockey Championship, where he recorded three goals and three assists in six games. This got Lafrenière an invitation to play for Team Canada’s under-18 World Junior Championship squad, with four goals and two assists in five games.

In 2018-19, Lafrenière bolstered his already impressive start to his junior hockey career. He served as an alternate captain for the Oceanic, posting 37 goals and 68 assists in 61 games. Lafrenière continued that dominance into the playoffs, scoring nine goals and picking up 14 assists in just 13 games. As a 17-year-old, he was brought onto Team Canada’s under-20 World Junior Championship team. Though Lafrenière struggled with just one goal in five games, the mere fact he was on the team so early in his career is impressive.

This season, Lafrenière has 43 points in 18 games. played 18 games so far. If he continues this pace, he could record a 144-point season. That is absurd.

Scouting Report

First, let’s look at Lafrenière’s tendencies. One of the most common things he does is park himself right in front of the opposing goalie. This shows his understanding of his own size and strength to take away the other goalie’s vision while battling for that net-front presence.

Though Lafrenière can certainly score, he has a pass-first mentality. He has a very good pass with the vision to find opponents that most wouldn’t. However, Lafrenière also holds a very strong shot. It would help him in a big way if he utilized it more often.

Another observation I made is how Lafrenière skates. He very rarely stops on a dime when needed. Lafrenière tends to take wide turns to change direction, which slows him down in the flow of the game. The good news is that it can be coached out of him. Skating coaches in the NHL are more than capable of working on that with him.

Lafrenière is very good with the puck and does an excellent job of finding the best option for a pass. However, when two or more opponents pressure him and take away most or all of the passing lanes, he seemingly hesitates and bails out on the play, turning the puck over.

He can get really complacent at times. When his team has the puck and is moving around smoothly, Lafrenière gets comfortable with the pace and makes bad passes and bad reads. That could be a problem at the next level, though that can be adjusted with maturity and experience.

On the power play, Lafrenière plays at the high point area, where he facilitates the power play. He likes to drift down to the circles to get to an empty area on the ice, looking for a one-timer, like Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos.

However, I think he is misused on the power play. As mentioned earlier, Lafrenière loves getting in front of the opposing goalie and setting a screen, using his big frame. Why isn’t he placed in the same role on the powerplay though? With his skill, big frame and physical abilities, he is best suited for the net-front role. Maybe that will be adjusted as the season wears on.

Lafrenière is a very good transitional player. He is quick when moving through the neutral zone and threading the needle on passes to gain offensive zone entry. However, when in the defensive zone, Lafrenière tends to jump up ice too quickly. It works sometimes and often leads to dangerous scoring chances. However, most of the time, it leads to his team being outnumbered in the defensive zone.

To stay in the d-zone, there are times where Lafrenière gets sucked into a battle from across the ice. He gets caught puck watching a lot. It is not as though this is a rare occasion either, as there are several moments in the game where he glides towards the puck and loses his positioning.

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Positives And Negatives

First, let’s begin with the positives of Lafrenière’s skating ability with and without the puck. He is a strong skater with powerful strides, though he doesn’t have blazing speed. Lafrenière can burn defensemen wide, but it is more likely he skates through them rather than bursting around them. He also doesn’t necessarily have good edges. It looks as though he plays a bit off-balance at times, leaning too far forward and on his toes, making it easier for opponents to knock him down.

Lafrenière also appears to have bad stamina. He looks extremely gassed at the end of his shifts that didn’t appear too long by any means. Lafrenière looks to make quick changes.

Offensively, he is immensely skilled. Lafrenière has great vision, helping him to find open teammates with relative ease. It also allows him to find holes in the opposition’s d-zone coverage, which he exploits and opens himself up for a pass. Lafrenière plays a very simple game, not often forcing passes when they aren’t open.

He has superb stickhandling abilities and is very creative when needed, but he also does not try to be too pretty with the puck. As stated earlier, Lafrenière loves using his big frame as a screen on the opposing goalie. He pairs that ability with excellent hand-eye coordination, making him a constant threat for deflections in tight. Lafrenière possesses a very quick and deceptive release, with his shot carrying a lot of weight behind it. His accuracy could use a bit more work, but the power is certainly there.

Lafrenière’s hockey IQ stands out. He reads plays much faster than those around him. Lafrenière has an incredible feel for the game. He is quick to jump on an errant or late pass and cut up ice for a scoring chance. Lafrenière quickly attacks weak points in the defensive coverage of his opponents, displaying how lethal he is when you give him even the smallest of spaces to work with.

He also is not afraid of getting involved physically, which further helps him win battles, which leads to him thinking further ahead than the opposition and creating scoring chances through that battle that he won.

Lafrenière is strong on the forecheck but he does not forecheck very often, which is a shame. He is a very lazy back checker, unfortunately. Lafrenière does, however, have the skillset to be a successful back checker, as he has a good poke check and stick lift.

Finally, Lafrenière is not a very good defensive zone player. He tends to get sucked down out of position and floats around in the d-zone. However, Lafrenière comes and goes, as he is not always out of position or floating around without realizing it. He can, at times, support his teammates down low and force turnovers which he quickly moves up ice. The main issue is his defensive zone consistency.

Potential and Comparison

Lafrenière should be NHL-ready immediately following the draft. He could begin as a middle-six player and move up rather quickly to the top-six if he finds his stride. It is also dependent on if Lafrenière is utilized correctly.

As for potential, Lafrenière has first-line potential and has all the makings of a top-notch power forward. However, there is no limit to what he can become. Lafrenière is simply too skilled with a lot of the intangibles needed for success that it’s impossible to put an accurate ceiling on his potential.

Lafreniere’s game is a mix of David Pastrnak’s skill and the style of Ovechkin. He plays very similar to Ovechkin in terms of where he tends to find himself in the offensive zone when without the puck. Meanwhile, he has the same mentality and similar skill-set of Pastrnak with his shooting and passing abilities. Lafrenière also shares the same defensive inconsistencies as Pastrnak, though that can be debated.

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All-in-all, Lafrenière is an incredible prospect. Though he is not perfect, the sky’s the limit for him, and he is certainly making the most of it in his draft season.