4 Big Questions for the New York Rangers in 2020-21

Artemi Panarin #10 and Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Artemi Panarin #10 and Mika Zibanejad #93 of the New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Alexis Lafreniere
Alexis Lafreniere, New York Rangers (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

2. Will Alexis Lafreniere hit the ground running in 2020-21?

Not since the likes of Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel entered the league has a top Draft pick been greeted with this much fanfare, hope and expectation.

Of course, part of that is being drafted by a New York team in the one of the biggest markets in the world, but Alexis Lafreniere is a generational talent and he has the potential and the upside to be one of the young faces of the NHL for years to come.

And the Alexis Lafreniere era officially starts on Thursday when the Rangers take on rivals the New York Islanders in what should be a mouthwatering start to the 2020-21 regular-season for both teams.

It will give Blueshirts fans a tantalizing first look at Lafreniere and just exactly what he might be capable of on the biggest stage.

Of course, everyone would be wise to proceed with caution given that the 19-year-old, yes, he’s only 19, might need some time to adapt to the NHL and we saw last year with Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils and Kaapo Kakko of the Rangers that being a high draft pick doesn’t guarantee you success straightaway in the big leagues.

Kakko’s slow transition to the NHL may be behind why the Rangers are treating their newest star with kid gloves, starting Lafreniere on the third-line with Filip Chytil and Julien Gauthier.

It is a line that has shown some promise throughout Training Camp and it allows Lafreniere to focus on his natural game and adapting to the NHL without the pressures that come with playing top-six minutes.

He should see some time on the power play too, but the fact that Lafreniere is built of tough stuff and boasts a hyper-competitive streak should enable him to truly flourish in The Big Apple from the very get-go.

Of course, if the left-winger comes out flying, competes well, puts up a load of points and looks unbeatable, then there is no doubt that he will be eventually bumped up to what is already a talent-laden top-six group for the Rangers, spearheaded by the likes of Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider.

That will certainly be the best-case scenario for the New York Rangers and all eyes will be on Alexis Lafreniere on Thursday night as he bids to start off his NHL career with an absolute bang.