The New York Rangers are kicking off their 2023 training camp, which will lead directly into the pre-season beginning on September 26th against Boston. One of the key storylines heading into training camp is Alexis Lafreniere’s confirmed testing on the right wing rather than the left.
This transition comes with great significance regarding the young star’s future, and both Lafreniere and the Rangers are confident it can be executed. In order to make the most of his new two-year bridge deal, the youngest of the “kids” must elevate his game and find success on the right wing.
Lafreniere discusses the main challenge of playing on the right side
When it comes to playing offense as a winger, both sides have relatively the same technique. It will be a simple task for Lafreniere to continue to produce points on the right side rather than the left, but the problem comes on the defensive side. Covering an opposing team’s players is a difficult part of a winger’s position, and Lafreniere’s entire knowledge of how to do it will now be flipped upside down.
“Coming back in your end. I’m used to going to the left side & trying to cover my D there. I have to do the same thing on the other side.”Alexis Lafreniere via Vince Mercogliano
Something as simple as Lafreniere’s defensive instincts sending him to the wrong side of the ice could become a major problem for the Rangers. As a right winger, Lafreniere must fill that role both offensively and defensively, otherwise, there will constantly be an open player looking to score for whoever the Rangers are up against.
Would a transition to the right side leave the Blueshirts’ defense vulnerable?
It does not help that a successful transition would likely put Lafreniere alongside Artemi Panarin, another player who lacks defensive excellence. It would create a difficult job for Vincent Trocheck, who would have to play defense for all three forwards (unless new head coach Peter Laviolette unlocks a new defensive aspect of Panarin’s game).
Although the problem could have devastating repercussions, it should be a simple fix for Lafreniere. As always, practice makes perfect. If swapping Lafreniere from left to right is the Rangers’ plan, the team must get him as much practice on the right side as possible before the regular season begins.
It’s been said that Rangers prospect Brennan Othmann would also be getting some time on the right side, but with his chances of making the Blueshirts’ roster somewhat low, it may be best to put all the time into Lafreniere.
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Lafreniere believes he’s ready to make the jump to the Rangers’ top six
Despite his minor troubles with defensive re-adjustments, Lafreniere knows that a transition to the right side is his ticket into the Rangers’ top six. With Chris Kreider and Panarin locking up the top two left-wing positions for at least the next few years, the right side has a much more open roster.
Although there have been rumors of Kaapo Kakko and Blake Wheeler taking the top two right wing positions, that being switched is much likelier than Kreider or Panarin.
When discussing his defensive troubles on the right wing, Lafreniere noted that he believes he’ll be able to succeed on the right wing.
Seeing Lafreniere act confident in this position change is a great sign. One of the major flaws of his game throughout his career has been a lack of faith in his own game, so watching him believe he can make the transition is just what the Rangers needed.
If all goes well, Lafreniere will excel throughout training camp and pre-season, and he may finally earn himself a long-sought top-six role.