Five Storylines to watch out for on NHL’s Opening Night Part 2

KeyBank Center prior to the game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Washington Capitals. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)
KeyBank Center prior to the game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Washington Capitals. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images) /
5 of 5
Alexis Lafreniere
Alexis Lafreniere, New York Rangers. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

1. Let the Lafreniere Era Begin

It all starts tonight. Yes, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, Alexis Lafreniere will make his long-awaited NHL debut for the New York Rangers tonight. It will be a special night for the generational talent, despite playing in-front of an empty Madison Square Garden, and it will also be a special night for Blueshirts fans who get to see their bright hope of the future in action.

And it will also be special because Lafreniere’s debut will come against the New York Islanders, the first of eight games between these two rivals this season in the incredibly stacked East Division. This is always a mouthwatering showdown anyway but especially so tonight given all the additional storylines.

Not only will you have Lafreniere’s debut, with the winger expected to start on a third-line with Filip Chytil and Julien Gauthier, but star center Mika Zibanejad will play after recovering from COVID-19 while Artemi Panarin is worth tuning in for this game alone, with the superstar coming off a 95-point campaign in 2019-20 (32 G, 63 A).

This could be the year the Rangers take that next big step in their journey back towards the glory days, and it all starts tonight with their new face of the franchise in Alexis Lafreniere set to be unleashed on to the biggest stage.

Let’s not forget about the New York Islanders, though. They are coming off a year in which they made the Eastern Conference Final in 2019-20, and they will fancy their chances of being one of four postseason teams in a stacked East Division.

Built on sturdy defense, the Islanders also have a rookie that is getting everyone excited in goalie Ilya Sorokin, although Semyon Varlamov is expected to get the start between the pipes tonight. But there will still be plenty of intrigue surrounding the Islanders tonight, much of it on star center Mathew Barzal who will be expected to carry the offensive load on his shoulders once again.

Next. Stone perfect Captain for Golden Knights. dark

You could say that it is going to be between the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins for those final two Playoff spots in the East, so tonight’s game will be an early marker and the Battle of New York is about to get a whole lot bigger and better, thanks in large part to the Alexis Lafreniere show, which has its grand opening tonight.