The New York Rangers are finally experiencing a breakout campaign from former 2020 first-overall draft pick Alexis Lafreniere. The forward had a rough start to his career but is finally beginning to show why he deserves a place on the Blueshirts’ roster.
A shortened Covid season, a revolving door of head coaches, and no top-six playing time were all factors that held Lafreniere back. But with HC Peter Laviolette finally giving him a shot, things are going well for Lafreniere this year.
Lafreniere leads his draft class in goals this season
For years, Lafreniere was considered a bust. Fans around the league mocked the Rangers for choosing him first overall in 2020, as many other players in the same draft class were excelling far beyond Lafreniere.
This season, Lafreniere is proving his haters wrong. Through 24 games played, Lafreniere has eight goals, which leads the entire 2020 draft class so far. He’s also added on another 8 assists, which gives him a total of 16 points. He’s on pace to set new personal records for practically every offensive statistic in this breakout campaign, a sight fans have been wanting to see for years.
What’s causing this breakout from Lafreniere?
There are a handful of reasons why Lafreniere is having such an incredible year. For starters, he’s finally been placed on the Rangers’ second line. Receiving top six minutes would help increase point production either way, but now, he’s playing alongside two elite forwards in Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck.
The coaching change from Gerard Gallant to Laviolette is another major factor at play. Lafreniere finally has a coach who not only has faith in him at even strength but is also willing to give him power play time. Laviolette’s new system has benefitted many players on the Rangers, and Lafreniere’s play style seems to match what the coach wants perfectly.
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The Rangers’ star is having fun
In a season where everything seems to be going right for Lafreniere, he’s been getting a lot more attention than usual as expectations are now raised. But although the pressure is on, Lafreniere knows how to drown out the noise:
“For me, I don’t really put too much pressure on myself. Just trying to play hockey and have fun. That’s what I want to do. Just trying to stay consistent with my game and have fun out there.”Alexis Lafreniere via Mollie Walker
To see Lafreniere remain confident and keep his enjoyment of the game intact is a great sign. Stars in the past have buckled under the pressure of playing in New York, but Lafreniere is still on pace to have the best season of his career.