There is some level of concern surrounding New York Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere following an underwhelming preseason campaign. Despite his poor preseason, Lafreniere will be ascending into a larger role this season while playing a new position in the top six.
Alexis Lafreniere likely moving into the top six
Prospect Will Cuylle snuck his way onto the roster following an impressive preseason. Cuylle’s presence on the opening night lineup likely indicates a move into the top six from Lafreniere.
Lafreniere previously manned the Blueshirts’ third-line left wing, but that is likely the role Cuylle fills on opening night. This would push Lafreniere into the top six but at a new position.
Throughout this year’s training camp and preseason, new head coach Peter Laviolette experimented with a new position for Lafreniere. The Rangers featured Lafreniere on the right wing this preseason, rather than his standard left side.
Moving to the right side will give Lafreniere an opportunity to finally earn those coveted top-six minutes he has been seeking. For the past several seasons, Lafreniere has been trapped down in the bottom six which has hampered his development.
Laviolette has made it clear that he intends to develop the kids and give them the opportunities to develop their skills. Giving Lafreniere top-six minutes will allow the 21-year-old to develop. But with increased playing time and heightened expectations, will Lafreniere rise to the occasion?
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Can the Rangers count on Lafreniere?
Lafreniere will assume a larger role this regular season, but if his preseason campaign is any indicator, he might not be ready to make a massive impact this season.
Despite finishing the preseason on a high note, Lafreniere’s overall performance throughout the Blueshirts’ exhibition games was largely underwhelming.
In four games played, Lafreniere failed to score a goal and posted just one assist (in the final matchup) with a -4 on the ice. Despite this lackluster campaign, Lafreniere will be moving into a larger role this season.
Ultimately, the Rangers are not rewarding Lafreniere with a top-six role because his performances have earned him the position. Instead, Lafreniere is receiving a larger role in hopes that it forces him to develop into the star player he was expected to become after being drafted first overall in 2020.
This will be a make-or-break season for Lafreniere as he looks to finally break out in a new top-six role.