Dom Lunardo | May 21th, 2020
15 years ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins called “The Next One” to the draft floor first overall. That player was Sidney Crosby from the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (OHL). Need we say any more? Fast forward to 2020, and it looks as though yet another Oceanic player is poised for prime-time (and super-stardom). Enter Alexis Lafreniere, the consensus number one pick at the upcoming 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Lets’s dive in and examine just how special Lafreniere is and how he’s ready to take the NHL by storm.
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Team: Rimouski Oceanic, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL)
2020 Draft Prospect Ranking (Central Scouting): 1st Amongst North American Skaters
Crosby to Lafreniere, Rimouski’s Finest
Rimouski, Quebec. The undisputed home of the Rimouski Oceanic, and Alexis Lafreniere. Prior to the start of the 2017 season, the Oceanic selected Lafreniere first overall at the QMJHL Entry Draft. From that moment on, the rest, as they say, is history. In his first season in “The Q”, Lafreniere notched 42 goals and was named Rookie of the Year. He was also named an all-star at the tender age of 15.
On many occasions, despite his age, Lafreniere looked like a “man amongst men” on the ice. It didn’t take long for those “in the know” to proclaim Lafreniere as the next Sidney Crosby. After posting 105 points last season, Lafreniere followed this campaign with another 100+ points. In just 52 games in 2019/20, he tallied 35 goals, 77 assists, and 112 points. Quite the torrid pace, especially in a shortened season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lafreniere was a shining star playing in one of Canada’s very best junior leagues.
Lafreniere “wowed” crowds in the Quebec League with his speed, skill, and smarts. His on-ice awareness and hockey-IQ are superior and in a league of their own in comparison to his fellow colleagues. Lafreniere is an expert at creating space and giving himself ample time to make decisions on the ice. Night after night, shift after the shift was a spectacle and something to behold for Lafreienere with the Oceanic. It comes as no surprise why there is so much excitement surrounding the “cream of the crop” in junior hockey. As his time with Rimouski likely concludes, the QMJHL has once again produced an incredible talent with Lafreniere.
The French-Canadian Sensation
What better way to cement your stock in the game than at the annual (and all-important) 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships? After a disappointing showing for Team Canada on home ice in 2019, Lafreniere and his mates smelled blood in the water right from the get-go this time around. Despite suffering a lower-body injury, Lafreniere was arguably the best player during the World Juniors. His 4 goals and 6 assists for 10 points in just 5 games earned him tournament MVP.
Lafreniere and Team Canada also went on to win the Gold Medal in thrilling and dramatic fashion against the Russians. Lafreniere’s play throughout the tournament was consistent, elite, and that of a “true winner”. His never say die attitude, and ability to change the dynamic of any game remain his best attributes. If there were any doubts about his play, those were squashed with a vengeance during the World Juniors. In a best-on-best tournament, Lafreniere rose to the occasion leading his country to the pinnacle of junior hockey. This is just one of the many reasons why he’s the top North American ranked skater for the upcoming draft.
The Biggest Stage
Vision, creativity, talent, instincts, and raw skill, all the greats have them. Although a far cry from the very best all-time, Lafreniere possesses an extensive toolbox as a player. His hands, release, and skills with the puck are elite and form a strong correlation with his footspeed and edge work. Not only can Lafreneiere simply outplay the opposition, but he can also out-think you as well. Lafreniere excels in all three zones on the ice and can make (highlight-reel) plays seamlessly from nothing.
The Saint-Eustache, Quebec native also loves to score goals. At 6’1, 192 pounds he’s not afraid to engage in battles and get to the dirty areas. Playing on the periphery is just not in the vocabulary for Quebec’s budding superstar. Scouts love his energy and work ethic, in addition to his ability to downright dominate games. Current NHL teams like the Ottawa Senators, Detroit Red Wings, and Los Angeles Kings will certainly have a vested interest in the draft. You can bet your hat they’ll be watching the NHL Draft lottery very closely in the next month or so. Believe the talent and hype, NHL fans, Alexis Lafreienere is coming!
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images