Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko

What John Davidson said about Jack Johnson, Kakko, development and more

Rangers President John Davidson was a guest on the Cam and Strick Podcast this week and said the following about the Rangers:

  • On signing Jack Johnson, “we signed him for one-year, it fit into the cap situation we are in. We had a terrible penalty killing team last year, Jack killed in Pittsburgh, where they were 10th in the league, and we also brought in a forward with the last name Rooney, with NJ, they were sixth last year. I know Jack, Jack is a good person, so that helps but the biggest plus was Jacques Martin is now part of our coaching staff, Lindy Ruff was coaching the D here and he’s now the head coach in NJ, so we had a hole to fill and Jacques Martin was part of two Cups there, he wanted to work for us, we hired him and then we called him on Jack and Jack was very good for him last year and he would endorse what we are trying to do with Jack, it was a fit for us. We have a lot of kids. There are some franchises in this league with a lot of depth with kids and I don’t know if anybody has more than what we have, especially after getting lucky with the #1 pick and Lafreniere, but we have a lot of defense coming down the road but we have to get there and we have to battle. Jack works hard in the weight room, so kids will see how that happens. We will get through it but we think he’s going to help us in a lot of different areas.”
  • On who he would compare Lafreniere to, “I don’t want to put that on him, because I don’t think it’s right, but this kid is mature for his age. He carries himself like he’s been around the pro ranks for 5-6 years, he’s close to 200lbs already, he likes to carry the puck through the neutral zone like Panarin does and drive the play, not as a center but as a winger, it’s interesting to see that. His play at the World Juniors and on the international stage, when you are on the Canadian team and a captain and expected to do things, he delivered and was an MVP of the tournament and they won gold. I think he gets all of that. We are lucky. I will say this though and I’m proud of this, maybe I’m not right and should have done it differently, maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing but in St. Louis, Columbus and in NY, I’ve never tanked, never been part of a tank job. This time, with us not tanking and being a competitive team, even though we are young, young, young and have a lot of future, we got lucky and got the number one pick and I feel good about that.”
  • More on Lafreniere, “The one thing I’ll say about Lafreniere being up in Quebec, he’s controlled that league for two straight years, as a 17-18 year old, it’s not too often you see that anywhere, that really tells you how good this kid could be.”
  • On Kaapo Kakko last season, “he came over here, new country, new ice size, it’s a lot of things. He had real good moments and other moments where he suffered some. What was really interesting was that he went home and then came back for the bubble, he was a different guy. It was like he put in 2-3 years of maturity and he played really well. Now he’s gone home and our coach David Quinn, he’s in touch with all of our players all the time, comes into my office and we talk about it. He says ‘you wouldn’t believe, he’s just a different person, he’s trusting, mature, working out.’ We tend to think about these guys that they will just come in and be stars, there are not many that do that anymore. You look at Hughes, the number one pick in NJ, same thing. We have to understand how young these guys are and how good the league is. We will see them mature and improve and become terrific players but we have to be intelligent with our patience level to make sure it happens instead of creating problems where we are wishing for too much too early and it stunts the growth of the player.”
  • On developing prospects, “they all go home with their programs and then we have our strength and conditioning guys and head coach call and check-in all the time, there are zoom things you can do. The other thing is development coaches and over in Europe we have Tuomo Ruutu, who played in the league, who is outstanding and he is hands on all the time seeing all these guys. That is a big part of their job, the offseason. We have two more over here in Jed Ortmeyere and Tanner Glass, they are great at what they do, really, really good at what they do. They get to know the players, we just had the draft and they called every player we drafted either that night or the next morning and have already started the relationship. I remember a story last year, Tanner Glass was in Edmonton and we have a kid out there named Robertson who plays junior there, a defenseman, pretty good player, and Tanner Glass went up and watched him play and he had a practice the next day and, sure enough, he went and talked to the coach and put his gear on and he was practicing with him and getting to know the kid on the ice.”
  • On developing relationships with the prospects, “you have to understand what makes a kid tic, and you can’t do that with a telephone conversation. You have to get to know them, see how they act in a restaurant, what they eat, it’s on and on and on like that. The development people, once you draft these kids, are so important for the organization, it’s just gigantic. You see a number of teams now, I know we do it with our farm team in Hartford, we make sure the kids are fed at the rink because you’d rather be hands on and knowing what they are eating, you have to eat right.”
Alexis Lafreniere

Alexis Lafreniere to wear #13

The Rangers have announced that Alexis Lafreniere will wear #13.

Lafreniere will be the 9th Ranger to wear #13, following (NYR Media Guide):

  • Jack Stoddard – 1951-52 to 1952-53
  • Bob Brooke – 1983-84 to 1986-87
  • Sergei Nemchinov – 1991-92 to 1996-97
  • Valeri Kamensky – 1999-00 to 2000-01
  • Richard Scott – 2001-02, 2003-04
  • Nikolai Zherdev – 2008-09
  • Daniel Carcillo – 2013-14
  • Kevin Hayes – 2014-15 to 2018-19

Lafreniere wore #11 with Rimouski and Team Canada. #11 has been retired by the Rangers twice, for Mark Messier and Vic Hadfield.

Alexis Lafreniere

Alexis Lafreniere signs entry-level contract with Rangers

The Rangers have signed #1 overall pick Alexis Lafreniere to his entry-level contract.

Lafreniere will have a cap hit of $925,000 per season. (CapFriendly)

Lafreniere will have $2.85 million in potential performance bonuses in all-three years of his contract.

2020 Draft, Alexis Lafreniere

Rangers select Alexis Lafreniere #1 Overall

8:18PM: On MSG, John Davidson spoke about Alexis Lafreniere and said:

  • “We are 10 out of 10 with excitement, to be dead honest with you.”
  • “These things happen maybe once in a lifetime, to have one of those picks, it’s almost dramatic, it’s exciting. We’ve had our eyes on Alexis the whole time. The wonderful part was when he put the jersey on it, it looked like it fit him perfect. He’s a very mature man for his age, a no-maintenance guy. He’s a pro already in a lot of ways. He’s waiting to have talks with us about what he is going to do this winter. For the franchise, for everyone that works so hard and the fans, its’ a tremendously exciting time.”
  • Does he remind you of anyone, “He himself thinks about Rantanen. We are talking about someone who does everything really well, 200-ft player, not full of flash and dash, really knows the way to get things done the right way, strong lower body, very high IQ, very driven and when you have skill and power at the same time, it’s a pretty good package. Just the way he carries himself, it’s the complete package. We are going to do things the right way, develop him work on all aspects of what you have to do to be a.great pro. Our group is really excited about having the opportunity to work with him and he is very excited about being a Ranger. We never said anything or announced anything, his agent was a little nervous as to whether he was going to be a Ranger or not, but she’s not nervous anymore.”
  • What have you learned about him, “You knew how good he was as a player because of his international play, in particular.  All the research we’ve done, I haven’t heard one negative thing about him. I think we will see a young man come here, he will know how to handle himself, play the right way. He may not step on the ice and be a superstar out of the chute, but he’s going to be a terrific player, these things take time, but he’s a part of our package that we are growing with and for Ranger fans, when we get back to normalcy and see this young man play and then get better, and better, and then become great, that is what is so special about this young player and for our fans to be part of.”

7:20PM: With the #1 overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft, the New York Rangers have selected LW Alexis Lafreniere of the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL.

Lafreniere was the consensus #1 overall selection according to scouts and media.

About Lafreniere (NHL Central Scouting):

  • Earned MVP and Best Forward at the 2020 World Junior Championship, where he helped Team Canada win gold
  • Named CHL and QMJHL Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season in 2019-20, making him the first back-to-back winner of each award since Sidney Crosby (2003-04 to 2004-05).

Central Scouting’s report on him says, “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 vision” and compares him to Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau.

Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet says of the Rangers choosing Lafreniere, “this is an absolute no-brainer. What I like most about this player is that he plays an all-around game. Despite being a winger, where many people think that the center position that can only impact those around him, Alexis Lafreniere can do that from the wing. He’s got great creativity, he shoots the puck a ton with a great release, defensive responsibility build into his game and here is a guy that when he gets across the blue line, is extremely dangerous because he has such a high hockey IQ and is so creative.”

McKeen‘s Draft Preview says that Lafreniere is the best QMJHL prospect since Nathan MacKinnon of Colorado, “and maybe even since Sidney Crosby.”

McKeen‘s adds, “If there is a theme in Lafrenière’s game, it is that he boasts a complete toolbox on the rush and in the offensive zone but uses only what is necessary for the moment. Lafrenière is playing 4D chess; he can assess the situation, determine the best plan of attack and execute before the opponent recognizes the situation. His ability to recognize when to release the puck and the poise to keep the puck until just the right moment is outstanding, and his ability to run an offence is top notch” and “The bottom line is that the sky is the limit, and Lafrenière’s greatest asset is that he knows what he is and what he can do.”

Craig Button said on TSN Toronto “Alexis has been the best player in his age-group all the way through, from the time he was 15 he dominated. Only Crosby has won back-to-back CHL Player of the Year awards so he’s already in rarefied air. He was a First Team All-Star as a 16-year old, he dominated at every level and every tournament he’s ever been at and I don’t think he will be any less of a star at the NHL level. He’s a star and a player that can play in a manner required in the moment. Want to play physical, he’ll play physical, want to play edgy, he’ll play edgy, you want skill, he can do that, want to skate, he can do that, battle in front of the net for loose pucks, he can do that. He makes everyone around him better, to me he’s the rare winger, centers are usually the guys that really drive the play and I think for Alexis, he’s the rare winger that can make all the players around him better. Patrick Kane-type players, Mitch Marner, Pastranak, Panarin, they have an ability to make everyone around them so much better. It’s a quality that is rare.”

On NBCSN, Button said “he’s physically, mentally and emotionally mature, so you take all of that and then the enormous skill that he has, all with that great competitive spirit. Alexis Lafreniere is not interested in playing anywhere other than where it matters, thats inside the dots and to the net. Outstanding hockey sense and an ability to deliver when it matters most.”

Button’s ratings on Lafreniere:

  • Skating: 4.5/5
  • Hockey Sense: 5/5
  • Competitiveness: 5/5
  • Scoring Touch: 5/5
  • Shot: 4.5/5

Pierre McGuire said, “this is a prototypical power forward, a little like Mikko Rantanen, a little like Jarome Iginla. He can bring smash mouth hockey to Broadway, the Ranger fans will love him. The biggest thing is that he dominated in key events, the World Juniors this year he was letter perfect.

Sidney Crosby, who saw Lafreniere play last season said, “It was really cool seeing him play and seeing how he dominated the game, the way he sees the ice. You could see all the guys around him were better, just being around him. That was really cool.” (The Athletic)

Former Rangers coach Tom Renney, who has seen Lafreniere as part of his work with Hockey Canada, told Larry Brooks that Lafreniere is “humble, deflects praise” and a “winner.” (NY Post)

Renney adds that Lafreniere has “zero issues being in the limelight”  and that the combination of his “hockey ability” and “personality” makes him “almost made for New York. It’s a really good fit.” (NY Post)

Adam Rotter: It’s finally official and the Rangers add the best player in this draft and someone who brings everything that the Rangers need. Terrific skill, playmaking and hockey IQ but his work ethic and compete level is that of someone who usually plays much lower in the lineup. When you combine the high-end skill and the bottom-six work ethic and compete level, you get someone who is special. He likes to play like Mikko Rantanen, someone that Kaapo Kakko was often compared to, and everyone says that even though he is a winger, he drives the play forward like a center. The Rangers are already quite familiar with a LW that pushes the play forward makes everyone around him better, like a center, and Alexis Lafreniere will get to watch Artemi Panarin up close every day and learn from the best. He won’t be wearing #11 as a Ranger, but like the two #11’s in the rafters of MSG, he could very well have a “C” on his jersey down the line. The Rangers will address their need at center in time, but for now they add another massive piece up front that, along with Kakko, should lead the Rangers up front for a long, long time.

Alexis Lafreniere

What the Rangers could be getting in Alexis Lafreniere

10/6/20 | Dave Reid said on the NHL Network, “I agree, he’s like a modern day Gilbert Perreault. He is ready to step into the NHL, he can do everything you ask of a top-end player. He’s not a center, he’s a winger, he’s going to be one of the best wingers for years to come. He can do everything you ask, wingers are usually the guys who work the boards and he loves playing physical, he is not afraid to step up. In the WJC his physical play really elevated his team. His defensive awareness and understanding of positional play is extremely strong, his passing ability is one of his best assets, He has an awareness of where his teammates are on the ice, his teammates are always better players when they play with him. His wrist shot is his best shot, he’s not a big one-time guy, not a big slap shot guy, a wrist shot guy but his ability to make his teammates better is what makes him so special. He’s got speed, size, hockey IQ, all of the attributes, he can pass, make the simple plays. Everything he does is done at a high level, at high speed and is very accurate. There are very few flaws in his game, his compete level is through the roof.

Billy Jaffe said on the NHL Network, “he’s always on pucks.”

8/16/20 | 9:30PM: Patrick Roy spoke, who coached against Lafreniere the past two-years in the QMJHL, spoke with Larry Brooks and said (NY Post):

  • “Character” describes Lafreniere and that he did a “super job” of handling the pressure and spotlight of being touted as the #1 overall pick.
  • “He’s a team player and a team guy. Without a doubt he would fit in with the Rangers and perform very well in New York.”
  • “He does what it takes. He is committed to winning.”
  • “He’s a great playmaker. He skates really well. He goes in traffic. His shot is good. He is capable of scoring. He’s smart. He’s been dedicated for a long time to being very, very, very good.”

Craig Button told Brooks that, like Artemi Panarin, Lafreniere makes his teammates better from the wing and compares him to Mikko Rantanen of Colorado. (NY Post)

Button adds that Panarin has an “edge to his game,” that he doesn’t “back down” and is a “competitor.” (NY Post)

8/11/20 | 11:53AM: In listing Alexis Lafreniere at #1 in their rankings, NHL Central Scouting describes him as an “exceptionally smart player with top-end speed and pull-away gear.”

They add, “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 vision to create plays in the offensive zone.

Central Scouting lists his comparable as Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau.

Lafreniere told The Hockey News in their 2020 Draft Preview, “I love being in high-pressure situations. Because I see pressure as a privilege and not like a weight on my shoulders. I want to be on the ice when the game is on the line. It’s a magical feeling, and it’s what I live for.”

Ken Campbell of The Hockey News wrote of Lafreniere In the 2020 Draft Preview, “he’s one of those rare left wingers who is capable of driving a line and is more of a playmaker than a pure scorer. And no, he will probably never be converted to center, a position he has never played in his life. There is no need to put him in the middle of the ice for him to play a 200-ft game.”

Campbell added, “One of the unique things about Lafreniere’s game is his adaptability in that he can play it any way you like it. He’d prefer it be based on skill and speed, but he’s prepared to engage in trench warfare if that’s what is necessary, all of which makes matching up against him difficult. His compete level is extraordinarily high and he has two assets that will prove to make him a dangerous offensive player for a long time – superior on0ice vision and a deadly wrist shot. Think Joe Sakic, it’s that good.”

Scouts told Campbell of Lafreniere:

  • “He has the size, hockey sense, competitiveness, strength. There’s nothing lacking in his game.”
  • “As teams take take away his playmaking, he’ll become more dangerous scoring because he’s so smart. He’s really, really competitive, and this comes as part and parcel of maturing, but he’s become more edgy as time has gone on. To the point where he’s like, ‘You want to come near me? Take this.'”
  • “Alexis understands when he’s got to shoot, when he can make the pass, who he’s going to pass it to. Those are all things that transfer to the NHL, understanding what’s unfolding in front of you and the response needed. It speaks to exceptional IQ. Players can think about the immediate play, but they don’t understand what the next play is. Alexis has all that and more.”

The Hockey News Draft Preview’s scouting report wrote:

  • “He’s basically an NHL player right now playing junior hockey. He has the size, hockey sense, competitiveness, strength….there’s nothing lacking in his game.”
  • “He’s not going to be a superstar, but he’s going to be a star. He’s going to be a player who can do so many different things in a game.”
  • His “best case” is Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau.

Ryan Kennedy wrote, at The Hockey News, “the key to Lafreniere’s game is his drive.”

The Athletic’s Corey Pronman writes that Lafreniere “understands how to create offense at an elite level” and is someone who is “responsible defensively, competes for pucks, drives the net and throws his body around.”

Pronman adds “Lafreniere is not a perimeter player. He makes hard plays to the net using his skill, strength and will to create chances.” (The Athletic)

The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler wrote of Lafreniere, while listing him #1 in his rankings, that he can “play through” defenders with his puck skills, “play around” them with his speed or “leverage his strength, drop his shoulder and drive to his spot.”

He adds that Lafreniere knows how to get open when he doesn’t have the puck, how to “engage physically” and that “he has all the tools he needs to be a dominant player with an without the puck at the NHL level.” (The Athletic)

In The Hockey News’ 2019 Draft Preview they listed Lafreniere as their number one prospect for 2020 and wrote, “super-smart and talented, he finished second in the QMJHL scoring.”

Chris Peters wrote at ESPN that Lafreniere “wanst the puck at all times, in all situations,” “has the skill and hands to make things happen when he has it” and brings a “physical edge” that can separate players from the puck.

Peters adds that Lafreniere “thinks the game at a high level,” has “elite anticipation and an understanding of what to do with the puck immediately after he gets it.” (ESPN)

The 2019 Future Considerations Draft Guide, in previewing 2020, wrote that Lafreniere “reacts and adapts to everything very quickly. He is very poised and patient with the puck which helps him make great decisions.”

They add:

  • “His passing skills are simply exceptional”
  • “He displays good instincts in his own zone” and “used in several high-leverage and shorthanded situations.”
  • “He’s a well-rounded player and will backcheck hard in his own zone in support of his defensemen.”
  • “A very fiery player, he seems to elevate his game in high-pressure situations. He wants to win and succeed at the highest level possible.”

Sam Costentino of Sportsnet said of Lafreniere, “he’s added layers to his game over the three years. He comes into the league and scores 42 goals, that was eye-popping, 80 points. He comes back the next year with 68 assists and 105 points. He has the adversity he faced at the World Juniors and being called out by Tim Hunter and being on a team that didn’t medal on home soil ever, so that was adversity he had to go through. He comes back, he has a great summer, now he adds some consistency, or there is more competitiveness and the physicality starts to come up. Now you have a playmaker, goal scorer, a guy that competes that is also playing the physical brand of hockey and you have a complete player.”

He added, ” there is a lot of people out there who haven’t watched him play that are saying ‘is he Connor McDavid, is he going to burn around the ice and be that dynamic guy?’ That is not what you are going to get but you are going to get a really well rounded player who makes those around him better and give you center-type qualities from the wing position. I’m really excited for what he is going to have to offer the Rangers this year.”

Costentino added he thinks Lafreniere could net 20 goals and between 50-60 points as a rookie.

2020 Draft, Alexis Lafreniere

Ottawa says they won’t be trading #3 and #5 to try for #1

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyck said that the idea of the Sens trading #3 and #5 for the #1 overall from the Rangers is “nonsensical.” (Ottawa Sun)

There has been speculation since the Rangers won the #1 overall pick last week that teams may try to trade for it and allow the Rangers to move back and select a center.

Bruce Garrioch does write that there is an expectation that Montreal may try to take a run at #1, though the earliest pick they would have in the first round would be #16. (Ottawa Sun)

Adam Rotter: On paper it makes sense for Ottawa to trade #3 and #5 to the Rangers because the Senators could land not only their next franchise player, but a French Canadian one at that. In reality though, it doesn’t make sense for them or for anyone to pay the crazy price the Rangers would require. The teams mentioned as possibilities like Ottawa, and to some extent LA, are rebuilding and aren’t in a position to move multiple “A+” level assets for one player, even if that player is Alexis Lafreniere. Ottawa, which struggles to attract free agents and keep their own star players, needs to add players to team with Brady Tkachuk and Thomas Chabot, not subtract from it.

The type of trade the Rangers would accept for #1 from Ottawa (probably something like Tkachuk, #3 and two of Ottawa’s four second round picks, if not more) or LA (#2, Alex Turcotte and two second round picks, if not another piece) make no sense for those teams. Think about if the Rangers were Ottawa or LA. Would you move Kakko, #2 or #3 and more for Lafreniere? The Rangers wouldn’t do that, because like LA and Ottawa they are trying to build up the amount of talent they have, not subtract from it. Montreal, because of what Lafreniere would mean to the team and city is probably the only team that, on paper, would make a crazy offer for #1 but, again, the price the Rangers would require would subtract multiple young forwards off a team that needs to add scoring, not subtract. The Rangers won #1 overall, they will keep the pick and on Opening Night for the 2020-21, or just 2021 season, Alexis Lafreniere will step on to the ice in a Ranger jersey.