Alexis Lafreniere showed what we’ve got to look forward with a beautiful play on Friday.
It hasn’t exactly been a great start to life in the National Hockey League for New York Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, but he did something on Friday night that provided a tantalizing glimpse of just what is to come.
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We’ve covered this already but the generational talent has endured a disappointing start to his NHL career, recording three points (2 G, 1 A) in 18 games with a plus / minus rating of -7. Given the lofty expectations surrounding the winger, many were hoping for a lot more production from one of the most talented prospects to come out of the draft in recent years.
However, there is a few reasons as to why Lafreniere has started slow, the first one being that it takes rookies different amount of times to adapt to the NHL and playing against men on a nightly basis on the world’s biggest stage, and that was the case with New Jersey Devils forward Jack Hughes last year, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Alexis Lafreniere shows what he’s capable off with sublime pass
It is also important to remember that Lafreniere is only 19-years-old and perhaps burdening him with all of these sky-high expectations from the very get-go wasn’t fair in the slightest, nor is the fact some are already prepared to call him a bust less than 20 games into his National Hockey League career.
Also, this wasn’t a normal year given that there was no preseason and Training Camps were less than two weeks long, so Lafreniere had no exhibition games in which to get used to the speed of the NHL or to develop any chemistry with his linemates, he’s had to do all of that on the fly during the actual season.
Lafreniere hasn’t been used in a top-six role consistently, either, with Rangers Head Coach David Quinn known for easing young players in and getting them up to speed slowly in a bottom-six role, so you have to consider all of the above factors in order to assess Alexis Lafreniere’s start in the NHL fairly.
However, there is no doubt that the forward has flashed glimpses of his insane talent and ability at times this season, scoring an Overtime winner against the Buffalo Sabres and displaying his high hockey IQ, and he showed off his abundance of skill on Friday night.
At 2:32 in the second period, with the Rangers already a goal up against the Boston Bruins at Madison Square Garden, Chris Kreider won the puck in his own zone and dished it to Lafreniere who, against the boards, looked up, saw Ryan Strome out all on his own and proceeded to fire across an absolutely beautiful dish with Strome doing the rest to make it a 2-0 game.
It was Lafreniere’s first-ever assist in the National Hockey League, and it was one to remember with the rookie displaying his vision, his creativity and his insane passing ability in one sublime package, and that is exactly the kind of elite playmaking ability that the Rangers will be looking forward to benefitting from for years to come.
It was even better for Lafreniere that there were around 2,000 fans inside MSG to witness that moment of brilliance, and this will hopefully be a springboard upon which the 19-year-old can take that next giant step in his game and, now playing bigger minutes in Artemi Panarin‘s absence, it shouldn’t be too long until we start to see the real Alexis Lafreniere on a more regular basis for the New York Rangers.