At 6’1” and 192lbs, the left-handed Alexis Lafrenière has the size every NHL team is looking for in a player. However, does he have the other necessities to dominate the sport and ascend to the likes of other first-rounders like Steven Stamkos and Patrick Kane (yes) or will he flop like Nail Yakupov (no). Alexis Lafrenière is only 18 years old and possesses attributes that 10-year veterans wish they had their entire career.
QMJHL and World Juniors:
His first season in the QMJHL playing for Rimouski Océanic, saw him put up 80 points (42G, 38A) in 60 games, no big deal. Alright that is a fluke, as the adage goes, “Let the rest of the league get some film on him and then we will see what he can do.” Season two in the Q saw him put up 105 points (37G, 68A) in 61 games. We have heard of the sophomore slump, not the sophomore jump to 105 points. Alright, everyone relax; show us a third season improvement and we will believe. It is now the 2019-2020 season and he is sitting at 52 games played 112 points (35G, 77A). Okay then, we guess we are all in on this kid. BUT WAIT, how does he perform on the biggest of stages, such as the World Juniors. Well, for Team Canada U18 in 2017-2018 he played 5 games and had 6 points (4G, 2A), not bad. Then, in 2018-2019 he got the call up for Team Canada U20 where he played 5 games and had 1 point (1G, 0A). There you have it, the fall from grace, the end, the kid couldn’t hack it, crack in the armor, have a nice career in the AHL…if you’re lucky. BUT WAIT, there’s more; in 2019-2020, Team Canada U20 gives him another shot and he once again plays in 5 games and records 10 points (4G, 6A), he’s back and shining on the biggest stage of his career! That’s gutty; that shows all the intangibles front offices want to see in a potential draft pick. He has the stats and performances, but let’s check out if he has the skills for an NHL career.
Stick Handling, Decision Making, and Getting Physical:
What we love about this kid is his ability to handle the puck in all situations. He has a profound ability to handle bad passes and make them look good. If he is pressured into a move, he can make it and drop opposing players to their knees. However, dangles are not his first instinct, which bodes well for a young gun heading into the NHL. He loves to move the puck quick, efficiently, and works around what the defense will give him instead of trying to force a particular play. Kyle Pereira of Fansided writes, “He has superb stickhandling abilities and is very creative when needed, but he also does not try to be too pretty with the puck. As stated earlier, Lafrenière loves using his big frame as a screen on the opposing goalie. He pairs that ability with excellent hand-eye coordination, making him a constant threat for deflections in tight.” This reinforces our determination of his adept stick handling.
Nevertheless, skill is nothing without hockey IQ, which may be his most valuable trait. Once again, Kyle Pereira writes, “Lafrenière’s hockey IQ stands out. He reads plays much faster than those around him. Lafrenière has an incredible feel for the game. He is quick to jump on an errant or late pass and cut up ice for a scoring chance.” Reading two or three plays ahead of what is happening in front of you and then processing that information to make a game-changing steal, stretch pass, deke, etc. is what will separate Lafrenière. He has the brains to see what is happening and the skill to turn any play in his team’s favor.
The icing on the cake, when it comes to Lafrenière, is his willingness and ability to get physical. This will help him defend against the bullies as well as assist in winning puck battles and getting dirty goals. If you have watched the NHL for a long time, you know pretty goals are the exception not the rule. Therefore, if you rely just on your pure skill as an NHL player you will most likely not last long. This guy is the all-around package when it comes to offensive power. If he responds well to coaching and conditioning in the NHL, there is no reason for him to fail.
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