The New York Rangers select Alexis Lafreniere with their first overall pick

Alexis Lafrenière

The New York Rangers have made it official and have selected Alexis Lafreniere as the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. This was the first time since 1965 that the Rangers had the opportunity to pick first in the draft. That year the Blueshirts selected Andre Veilleux with the first pick.

The added excitement for this pick is that Lafreniere has been projected by almost every draft rater as a future NHL superstar. This is due in part to the fact that in his rookie season with Rimouski Océanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, he scored 42 goals in 60 games, the highest goal total for a rookie since Sidney Crosby scored 54 for Océanic in 2004. In his two seasons since that rookie campaign, Lafreniere has posted 72 goals and 217 points in 113 games.

In addition, Lafreniere is represented by Emilie Castonguay, who will be the first woman to represent an NHL No. 1 pick as an NHLPA-certified agent.

Of course, all of this was made possible by the sudden turn of events in the world with the outbreak of COVID-19 which cause the NHL to shut down in March.

This changed the timing of the NHL draft so the NHL held its initial draft lottery in June, which included the seven teams that did not qualify for the expanded 24-team tournament, as well as a placeholder pick for one of the eight teams that lost in the qualification round. The placeholder pick won June’s lottery, forcing a second drawing among the teams that were eliminated in that qualifying round.

The Rangers, as well as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, and Minnesota Wild each had a 12.5% chance to select No. 1.

The Rangers ping-pong ball was selected which gave them the first overall pick.

Lafreniere is Canadian and grew up in a predominantly French suburb in Quebec. He is the son of Hugo and Nathalie Lafrenière. He was also a talented baseball shortstop in his youth before deciding to focus on hockey. Lafreniere will turn 19-years-old on October 11.

The New York Rangers and their fans will probably be very happy that he decided to focus on hockey.

 

New York Rangers remain silent on who they will select with the fist overall pick Tuesday

Alexis Lafrenière

The New York Rangers are playing things close to the vest when it comes to who they will select with the first overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft being held virtually on Tuesday night.

General manager Jeff Gorton knows who the top prospect is and its value to the club for years to come. Yet, that has not stopped him from listening to any and every offer that has come across his desk.

“I’ve taken calls on it, that’s the job,” Gorton said. “We’ll listen to anything, but we’re comfortable picking first overall. … We look forward to Tuesday. I’ll always take the calls, but I would say our eye is on taking the pick right now.”

The Rangers are “really impressed” with Lafreniere, Gorton said to Dan Rosen of NHL.com.

The presumed number one pick overall is a name Rangers fans have heard since that ping-pong ball with the Rangers logo was selected several weeks ago. Alexis Lafreniere, the Rimouski forward, will be the team’s first overall selection since 1965 when the Blueshirts selected Andre Veilleux with the top pick in the 1965 NHL Draft. He never played a game in the NHL.

Lafreniere stands on the top of the mountain in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters. He led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) in 52 games and was named the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year.

Despite how convinced most people are that the Rangers will take Lafreniere first overall, Gorton has continued to have a little fun with those who continue to ask him about the pick,

“On the first pick, tune in at 7 o’clock Tuesday and we’ll tell you exactly what we’re going to do,” Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said Friday.

Once the draft is completed and Lafreniere is officially a Blueshirt, where he will fit in on the roster will be the next situation the club will deal with. The club has a pretty good player playing left wing on the first line named Artemi Panarin, a Hart Trophy finalist this season. Then there is Chris Kreider who signed a contract extension last February.

Let’s not forget about last year’s second overall pick, Kaapo Kakko, who should be ready for a top-six spot when the 2020-2021 season begins.

These are great problems to have to worry about, but first, the team needs to secure the best player in this year’s draft.

Tuesday night will be an exciting one for Rangerstown.   The hair on fans skin across the city will rise when Gary Bettman virtually begins the best words to start an NHL Draft,

“With the first pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, the New York Rangers select Alexis Lafreniere, Rimouski of the QMJHL.” What a great night it will be for Rangers hockey.

Who will be the next king of hockey in New York?

Yesterday marked the end of an era.

Henrik Lundqvist, the goalie for the New York Rangers for the last 15 years and a surefire Hall of Famer, was bought out by the organization with one year left on his seven-year, $59-million contract he signed in 2014.

The decision to buyout the 38-year-old was almost written on the wall ever since the arrival of Igor Shesterkin — the organization’s highly-touted Russian goalie — towards the middle of the season, and the rise of 24-year-old Alexander Georgiev the past two seasons. Still, it was a painful day not just for Rangers fans, but for all hockey fans in the metropolitan area who watched Lundqvist’s reign to becoming one of the greatest goalies ever.

Lundqvist truly was a King. And New York was his kingdom, especially from the hockey portion of the sports landscape in the area. He was the best player — other than the short stint of Jaromir Jagr — at his position of any of the three Metro teams from the moment he made his debut.

But that time has come to an end. A new king shall arise.

The question now is, who will be the next to take the throne? There’s plenty of worthy candidates who all have a case.

Igor Shesterkin

The youngster who was being groomed to be the heir-apparent to Lundqvist. He’s now the Blueshirts’ starting goaltender and will be for the foreseeable future. Shesterkin showed the fans and his teammates all the hype was real about him — and that he could very well be a dominant force moving forward — when he went 10–2-0 in his 12 starts before the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the hockey season.

The future looks bright for Shesterkin and the Rangers. And he has all the capabilities of being the ruler of the sport in this town if all things play out.

Ilya Sorokin

Shesterkin isn’t the only new name on the scene that might help lead to New York’s next great era of hockey. His Russian counterpart, Ilya Sorokin, is now officially with the Islanders, and he is positioned to be the franchise goaltender on Long Island for hopefully the next decade.

The 25-year-old Sorokin was a king in his own right back in his native homeland and oozes winning and star power. He could very much take this market by storm with those traits and if he’s backstopping the Isles back to the glory days they once had back in the early 80s.

Artemi Panarin

Panarin has only called New York home for one year, but it’s already proven that he’s become one of the best athletes in any of the four major sports. We know he was already a household name before he arrived last summer, now though, the 28-year-old has a strong chance of being the next one to take the thrown around here. The guy is a superstar — he was a Hart Trophy candidate this past season — and he’s got that infectious personality which makes him a joy to watch play (the Rockette goal celebration is also very Broadway).

Panarin is going to be here for a while, another six years to be exact. In that time, the Rangers have the makings of being a powerhouse and he as the face of it all.

Mathew Barzal

As the Islanders continue to build toward a perennial winner, it’s Barzal who has become the face of the franchise and who the entire league recognizes when the franchise is mentioned.

Only 23, Barzal has already accomplished some great things in his career, including a Calder Trophy back in 2017-18. And he’s not even close to being the star everyone knows he’s capable of being. Beyond that, Barzal — most likely being an Islander for the next decade and more — has the off the ice qualifications too.

He’s got his own style. His flow has made him an internet sensation. And he’s got the look of someone who you’d put on a billboard.

All of that resonates around these parts.

Jack Hughes

Look everyone can discredit New Jersey as not being a part of the NY hockey landscape, but they still are very much a part of the fabric and its history. That’s why Jack Hughes gets a nod on this list.

The number one pick overall in 2019, Hughes is just at the beginning of his career. He was a superstar during his time at the U.S. National Development Program, and the hope is it will be the same for his time over the next number of years with the Devils. The franchise is leaning on him to bring back those years of consistent winning and championships.

Hughes is just 19, so he’s still raw. But he could very much own this town if he can help turn the Devs around and live up to his top pick status.

Kaapo Kakko

The kid picked right after Hughes at last summer’s draft, Kaapo Kakko is also just starting what hopes to be an excellent career on Broadway. Kakko definitely showed his warts as a freshman this past year, but the greatness which made him a top-2 pick flashed on a number of occasions. Being from Finland, he’s another European export who is expected to be one of the major pieces to the puzzle for the Rangers.

Kakko said when he first landed in New York, “it’s a nice city”. Well, the city has the chance to be his very much down the road.

Nico Hischier

Hischier, who also plays on the Jersey side of the Hudson, has quietly become one of the best players in the area. Another former top overall pick, he’s trying to bring the Devils back to respectability; and he has in some ways. He also is only getting better.

Just 21, he might be the best player in the area down the line.

Mika Zibanejad

The Blueshirts are loaded for the future as said above. Zibanejad is on that list. He’s become one of the synonymous names on Broadway and had the best season of his career in 2019-20.

Zibanejad is also the kind of star who can shine big in the city.

The guy is a DJ in his own right and has released his own music. That’s a total win-win if you’re looking for the next guy to be the face of the sport in the city. Add in winning, and Zibanejad is a sneaky contender for the crown.

Alexis LaFreniere

The soon-to-be number one pick, next Tuesday to be exact. LaFreniere has been compared to some of the greats playing in the game right now, and he will have the Worlds Most Famous Arena — Madison Square Garden — as his playground. The 18-year-old phenom has already expressed his love for the city and the chance to play with another star at the top of this list, Panarin.

He’s going to get his chance. Aside from that, he’s got all the hype of being Broadway’s next big hit, pardon the pun.

That itself could make him the next in line to wear the crown.

Who do you think will be the next king of hockey in New York?

New York Rangers now have date and time for their biggest NHL Draft in modern era

Alexis Lafrenière

The New York Rangers have known they will have the number overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft for over a month. Now they have a firm date and time when the club will announce to the hockey world who this year’s top pick will be.

The NHL announced on Friday that the Virtual NHL Draft will be held on Oct. 6 and Oct. 7.

The first round will take place Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. ET, with Rounds 2-7 held the next day, beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET. The broadcast schedule has yet to be announced but it will most likely be televised by NBCSN and/or the NHL Network.

The Rangers won the draft lottery in August and are expected to use the number one overall selection on 18-year old forward Alexis Lafreniere of Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Lafreniere was number one in the NHL’s Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters.

“Anytime you can pick first, especially this year, it’s a special year, we all know that,” Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said to NHL.Com that Monday night.

At last year’s draft, the Blusheirts used the second overall pick in the draft to select Kaapo Kakko. Beginning with the 2017 NHL Draft, the Rangers have had six players chosen in the first round,  (2017) Lias Andersson (7) and Filip Chytil (21), (2018) Vitali Kravtsov (9), K’Andre Miller (22), Nils Lundkvist (28), (2019) Kakko (2).

Prior to that, the Rangers had five years of not holding a first-round draft pick. In 2012 the Rangers drafted Brady Skjei with the 28th selection in the first round. They never had another first-round pick until the 2017 NHL Draft as the team made several trades that never panned out for the most part over that time.

The NHL also announced that free agency would begin on Thursday, Oct. 9.

Gauging Interest in the New York Rangers Trading their First Pick

Alexis Lafrenière

The New York Rangers may be curious to see which teams channel its Don Vito Corleone and tempt the Rangers by “making them an offer they can’t refuse”, and what that offer might look like in order for the Rangers to trade what is expected to be one of the future stars of the NHL, Alexis Lafreniere.

It is not like the Ranges should not listen to offers. If someone comes in with a really great offer, then the Rangers should at least consider it. Also, GM Jeff Gorton did make a cryptic quote about the pick when he said “If I just went on this call and told you all the things we’re going to do, it probably doesn’t help me on the market when I make calls. We have to have more meetings and I like to play a little closer to the vest than announcing we’re going to go get centers or do something else.”

Then there was President John Davidson’s quote when he said “You know, we just got the pick. The dust hasn’t even settled. I know people are excited here in New York. They’ve got a lot of calls downtown about getting season tickets. It’s been very good, that part of the business.”

Soon after the ping-pong ball popped out in favor of the Blueshirts, speculation began as who would have the necessary capital to make this trade.

One of the more credible reports came from Lisa Dillman of the Athletic and Brian Burke from Sportsnet, who have reported that the Ottawa Senators will propose a trade that will see the Senators send their third and fifth pick in the upcoming draft for the Rangers first pick.

This does give the Rangers something to think about. They could end up with the third, fifth, and no worst than 24th pick (from Carolina) in this year’s draft.

It also gives the Rangers the option of saying “Does anybody have any offers that can top this?”

One of the factors that play into this is whether a potential third pick could at least come close to what Lafreniere is expected to bring to his new team. The next two ranked players in most scouting services after Lafreniere are Quinten Byfield, a 6’4″ Center from Sudbury of the OHL, and German-born LW/Center Tim Stützle. In their corner, they have Bob McKenzie of TSN who stated that “Byfield and Stützle both have a chance to impact the NHL at the same level as Lafreniére, if not go by him at some point.”

If this is to be believed, why would the Senators, who are in need of a lot of talent, be willing to trade two of the top five picks for the number one? It does not seem likely.

One of the biggest reasons why is that Byfield is a year younger than Lafreniere, who is generally considered NHL ready, while Byfield may need another year in Juniors to aid his progression. Stutzle is a little bit of an unknown as it is difficult to compare his numbers from his German League (DEL), although scouts rave about his talent.

However, the possibility could exist because teams, as does the Rangers, know that Lafreniere is a left-winger, and the Rangers already have two decent LW’s in Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider. Playing on the third line is an option, which may not be a bad thing for an 18-year-old rookie.

Another possibility is that Gorton and Davidson may want to add to that package, so they can alleviate some of the cap issues that face them this year. In the “killing two birds with one stone chapter”, that package could include restricted free-agent Alexandar Georgiev, which would also rid the Blueshirts of that pesky three goaltender issue they have dealt with for a while, and allow Henrik Lundqvist to finish out his career as a New York Ranger without buying out his contract.

In the end, a Rangers future with Lafrenière, Panarin, Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, Kaapo KakkoIgor ShesterkinAdam Fox, and Jacob Trouba will make it very hard for any team to make the Rangers an offer that they can absolutely refuse.

 

 

 

New York Rangers will get offers for the number 1 pick

Alexis Lafreniere

The New York Rangers’ future took a dramatic turn last Monday with one bounce of a ping pong ball. The number one overall selection in this year’s NHL Entry Draft belongs to the Blueshirts.

Team president John Davidson knows who he and the Rangers organization want to pick as the top selection in the NHL Entry Draft which is to be held in October. Alexis Lafreniere is the projected top player and would look great playing on Broadway at Madison Square Garden. The winger played for Rimouski of the QMJHL recorded 112 points in 52 games this past season.

The decision to draft Lafreniere may not be as simple as it may appear, some team could make an offer for the pick.

Davidson spoke at length with Pierre LeBrun and Scott Burnside on this week’s Two-Man Advantage podcast. He discussed what it means to land the top pick in New York.

“When you sit there and you’re going to get the No. 1 pick, it opens up a whole lot of different thoughts and ideas. Most teams when they get the No. 1 pick, it’s generally a player that’s a very, very good player. So you don’t mess with it all. It opens up the avenue to do other things throughout your organization. It’s something we always will look at and analyze. We’ll see where it all goes.”

The Ottawa Senators are one club that could make an intriguing offer to get the Ranger’s first-round selection. The Senators will have the No. 3 and No. 5 picks in this year’s draft. They might be willing to give up their two picks for the number one overall selection.  This draft has plenty of potential in the early selections. The next two projected players are center Quinton Byfield and forward Tim Stutzle.  Byfield could be the center the Rangers have been looking for, but is it the direction the team wants to go?

Another team that could throw an offer at the Blueshirts are the Los Angelos Kings.  They sit with the Number two overall selection ( they same spot the Rangers drafted Kaapo Kakko last year). The Kings would have to add some of their current prospects into the mix for J.D. and general manager Jeff Gorton to consider such a move, but again every offer made has to be considered. No offer is a bad offer, just one that may not fit the team’s needs.

The last time New York had the No. 1 pick was 55 years ago, taking forward Andre Veilleux in 1965. He never played in an NHL game, but doubt that will be the same conclusion this year.

Up to this point, the Rangers have been in a rebuild mode.  a ping pong ball has now changed the outlook of the Blueshirts, one that includes an NHL Hart Trophy finalist with Artemi Panarin, an always improving center and team leader in Mika Zibanejad, Kaapo Kakko entering his second NHL season smarter and more improved and the undisputed best player available in Lafreniere potentially joining the club, the team will have to change its model from rebuilding to playoff-bound.

Listening to offers is part if every president and general manager’s job. The decision to pull the trigger on such offers is why these guys get paid the big money. A decision, either way, could have an impact on the next six or seven seasons. That’s years that no team can ill afford to lose.

What the New York Rangers Can Expect from Alexis Lafreniere

Alexis Lafrenière

In 2020,  where the strangest outcomes are the most common, the New York Rangers won a special phase 2 of the NHL entry draft and thereby will pick first in the upcoming draft that is scheduled for October. The more than likely first-round pick will be a junior hockey sensation, Alexis Lafreniere. Many people know that he is how good, but just how good can Lafreniere be?

The New York Rangers are getting a superstar in the making

The first bit of good news occurred on Wednesday when Bob McKenzie of TSN reported that Lafreniere will not go to Europe or stay in Quebec but instead report to the Rangers when training camps are expected to resume for the 2020-21 season in November.

The New York Rangers are preparing to select a top talent to join the rest of the young talent on the team, they are getting a player who many feels can be exceptional in the NHL for years to come.

For example, the NHL Central Scouting Combine said this about Lafreniere in their final report:

“Exceptionally smart player with top-end speed and pull-away gear. Great at carrying the puck and leading rushes. Executes under pressure and has great vision and anticipation – very good quickness with the puck and exceptional ability to change speed. Elite puck skills and visions to create plays in the offensive zone.”

NHL Central Scouting listed Jonathan Huberdeau as the best current player comparable for Lafreniere’s skillset, but the soon-to-be NHLer said the player he most models his game after is actually Patrick Kane. Many experts say he has the skills to be an impact player like Kane and Sidney Crosby. The comparisons to Crosby have come as Lafreniere and Crosby share two similar accomplishments from their time in the juniors: both have won back to back QMJHL MVP’s as well as being the CHL player of the league twice.

Lafreniere is not only talented, he is hockey smart as well. His agent, Emilie Castonguay, said it’s his hockey I.Q., vision and competition level that really separates him from his peers and leads him to be such a next-level playmaker. “When you have a player like that, it makes everybody around him better. Just the way that he’s able to see the game,” she said. “For me, when I look at a player – especially of his talent – the first thing you notice is every time he’s on the ice or every time he touches the puck, the game just slows down. There’s not a lot of players that are able to do that. Since he was very young, every time he’s been on the ice at every level, that’s what he’s been able to do.”

In addition to his skills and smarts, Lafreniere has already proven to be a big-game player. He was a high-impact playmaker every time he hit the ice, leading Team Canada to the gold medal in the most recent World Junior Hockey Championships with his team-high 10 points through five games. He earned tournament MVP honors in the process, despite missing some games due to injury that nearly sent the entire country of Canada into a frenzy.

Very soon, this elite talent will be joining other talented young players on the New York Rangers.