alexis lafreniere primed to breakout

The first overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Alexis Lafreniere had a lot of hype coming into his rookie season as he was seen as the best forward prospect since Auston Matthews as he could change a franchise. Well entering his first season in the NHL, Lafreniere managed only 1 goal in his first 15 games in the league. From this point people (unfairly) were questioning if Lafreniere will be a superstar and some suggested he was becoming a bust. Obviously these were ridiculous claims as prior to the 2021 season the last game the 19 year old played was in March 8th, 2020 with the Rimouski Océanic and this is a long time between playing which will take a player, especially young players, out of game shape. It also did not help that former Rangers coach David Quinn would consistently change lines so Lafreniere was not able to gain any chemistry with anyone. Funny enough, after having that disappointing start, Quinn decided to give Lafreniere top line minutes, where he started scoring points, as he earned 6 points in 9 games. But after it looked like Lafreniere was starting to heat up David Quinn put him back on the bottom 6 and then continued to continuously change his linemates.

This was a trend throughout the season until David Quinn decided to give Lafreniere another shot in the top 6, more specifically with 2 linemates he looked most comfortable with, Mika Zibanejad and former Ranger Pavel Buchnevich. Once put on that line Lafreniere notched 4 goals 3 assists for 7 points in 9 games. Once again, great production with consistent linemates and being put on a top line. Anyways, when the Rangers finished their season Lafreniere put up a stat-line of 12 goals 9 assists for 21 points in 56 games, with 13 of those points coming when he was playing in the Rangers top 6. In addition, it could be a fair assesment to say Lafreniere could have put up 20 goals if this was a regular year as he would have had a proper training camp, a preseason, and full 82 game schedule.

Something that does pop out in Lafreniere’s rookie season that no one talks about is that among all Ranger players this season he ranked 2nd in xEVO (expected even strength offense) and xOff (expected offense) with an 8.8 xEVO and 8.3 xOff, he was also 7th in xGAR (expected goals above replacement) and xWAR (expected wins above replacement) with a 5.7 xGAR and 1 xWAR (all data via Evolving-Hockey). This does show Lafreniere was able to create quality offensive opportunities overall in his rookie season.

All in all, Lafreniere is prepared to breakout offensively this coming season as his expected stats will improve and it will cause more production on the ice, he will also have a competent coach to give him consistent top 6 ice time, which will be key as last season 61% of his points came when he was playing on the top 6, and with trading Buchnevich, Lafreniere will have consistent power-play time as well. So, with all these factors prepare for Laf to erupt in production and become a dynamic player at the age of 20.

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