Rangers’ Peter Laviolette praises young winger despite recent struggles

New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) skates down ice during a penalty shot attempt in the second period against the San Jose Sharks at Madison Square Garden
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have had many surprise performances from key players this season, including a breakout campaign from Alexis Lafreniere. The former 2020 first-overall draft pick had just signed a two-year bridge deal this offseason and was expected to make a push to solidify his future as a Blueshirt, but he started the year off to a red-hot start that shocked fans.

As of late, Lafreniere has slowed down quite a bit. He still looks solid on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck, but his point production has come to a screeching halt. Despite scoring a goal last night against Toronto, there is still much progress that needs to be made from Lafreniere.

Laviolette predicted a big performance from Lafreniere against the Maple Leafs

Heading into last night’s matchup, Lafreniere was riding a 12-game goal-scoring drought. He’d picked up a few assists along the way, but his lack of scoring was beginning to grow as a concern for the Rangers. But yesterday afternoon, HC Peter Laviolette showed his faith in Lafreniere, and he proved to be right all along:

“Laf’s working hard and I really believe in him and the way he plays the game right now.”

Peter Laviolette via Vince Mercogliano

Laviolette keeping faith in Lafreniere is a welcomed change after seeing how former HC Gerard Gallant would have acted. Had Lafreniere been on a 12-game drought under Gallant, he would have been demoted to the bottom six with zero chance of making a comeback. But Laviolette’s cool composure and trusted system are the correct handling of this situation.

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The Rangers need Lafreniere to continue producing points

So far this season, the Rangers’ second line has been the best of the four overall. Panarin, Trocheck, and Lafreniere have proven to be elite both offensively and defensively, as all three members are finding success on both ends of the ice. The individual performances of Panarin and Trocheck have kept the line’s reputation afloat during Lafreniere’s slump, but he’ll need to maintain a steady scoring pace in order to keep his title as a breakout player.

With Lafreniere scoring his first goal in 13 games last night against Toronto, fans must hope that this is the beginning of an offensive resurgence from the former first-overall pick. The Rangers are already dealing with a depleted RW position, and if Lafreniere continues to struggle, that problem will only worsen.