New York Rangers' Alexis Lafreniere Living up to First-Round Hype

New York Rangers v Florida Panthers - Game Four
New York Rangers v Florida Panthers - Game Four / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

After being picked first overall in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) draft, Alexis Lafreniere set his sights on the NHL. His dream came true, as he was picked first overall again, this time by the New York Rangers in the 2020 NHL Draft. His first season in the league did not go as planned. However, fans are now seeing what the hype was all about as he has put his game together and is shining on the ice.

New York Rangers' Alexis Lafreniere living up to expectations

After making his NHL debut on January 14, 2021, Lafreniere was under a lot of pressure during his rookie season. The St-Euastache, Quebec, Canada native would score his first NHL goal in a 3-2 win against the BUffalo Sabres on January 28, 2021. Fighting through expectations, he posted 12 goals and nine assists for 21 points and eight penalty minutes in 56 games. Hardly what the Rangers were hoping for.

After a couple of seasons of putting everything together, it seems as if he has found his game and is producing like New York was hoping for when he was taken first overall. This season, he has 28 goals and 29 assists for 57 points in 82 games. With the Rangers season ending on Saturday night against the Florida Panthers in game six, Lafreniere finished the playoffs with eight goals and six goals for 14 points in 16 games. His 14 points in the playoffs were tied for third on the team and had four goals in his last six games.

Lafreniere has developed quite well after a shaky start to his career and has taken his game to another level. His overall game is better and his offensive production is near the top of the Rangers team scoring. He is now a player who can take over a game and be as reliable in the offensive zone as Artemi Panarin and MIka Zibanejad. His play in the playoffs has been outstanding as he has carried the offense at times, scoring big goals at big times to tie the game or put New York ahead.

Lafreniere is still young but he is showing signs of becoming a major scoring threat in New York. He never lost his potential he came into the league with but maybe the expectations have changed. He no longer has to be the elite player most thought he would be. He needs to be a consistent scorer and play a 200-foot game, which is what he did last season and he came out with career-highs offensively across the board. He has arrived after a couple of average seasons. This is what the Rangers wanted when they drafted him four years ago. He is a player that should be considered a franchise player and someone that can rely on to take this team to the next level.

Lafreniere is a player the Rangers can foresee leading this team 10 years from now. He has transformed his game over the past few seasons and can now be considered a go-to guy. He provides the Rangers with secondary scoring and at his age could be a future captain of this franchise as they continue their quest for another Stanley Cup. He is showing why the Rangers drafted him first overall and why it was worth the wait for him to develop into the young star he is today.