The NHL 15: It is make-or-break time for Alexis Lafreniere
The former No. 1 overall pick for the New York Rangers needs to take a big step forward.
As we approach the start of the 2023-24 NHL season I am going to take a look at 15 players worth paying attention to this season for one reason or another.
These are not necessarily the best players. Some of them might be, but others might be more obscure. This not a ranking of any kind. It is simply a look at players that I think have some kind of interesting storyline to watch or could have a major impact on the NHL this season.
We continue today with New York Rangers forward Alexis Lafreniere.
I have written about this subject in this space before, but the New York Rangers’ rebuild was blessed with two significant strokes of good luck in the draft lottery when they moved up in the 2019 and 2020 classes to get top-two picks.
In 2019 they selected Kaapo Kakko with the No. 2 overall pick, and then followed it up one year later by getting Alexis Lafreniere with the No. 1 overall pick.
Anytime you pick players at the top of the draft, you are expecting to get franchise changing players. It does not necessarily need to be a Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby generational talent (because most teams are not that lucky), but it better at least be somebody that is going to be a star.
Even though the Rangers have done a good job of building up the roster with veterans and finding a top-tier defenseman (Adam Fox) and goalie (Igor Shesterkin), the success or failure of the rebuild will ultimately hinge on whether or not Kakko and Lafreniere become stars.
So far, they have not.
It has continued a disturbing trend in recent Rangers history where they have struggled to develop forward talent, and it is one of the biggest things that has held them back from getting closer to a Stanley Cup over the past three decades.
I am going to focus on Lafreniere here because as the No. 1 overall pick, there is a significantly brighter spotlight on him and an entirely different set of expectations.
He is three years into his career and has simply yet to produce the way you want to see a No. 1 overall pick produce.
He has not necessarily been bad, and there have been some definite flashes of play where you can kind of see the potential for him to still become a star if you really squint and look closely. It just has not been consistent enough or often enough. Whether that is the result of the Rangers not knowing what to do with young, talented forwards, or Lafreniere simply not being a franchise player remains to be seen.
But the numbers are not exactly encouraging.
Let’s get into them.
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