With the conclusion of the 2019 National Hockey League entry draft, draft geeks like me have already begun looking ahead at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Crazy right? I mean, it’s about a year away, what am I doing? But that’s exactly it, I’m getting on board early so that by the time the draft is a few days away, you’ll know everything there is to know about a prospect in this draft, from Alexis Lafreniere to Ty Smilanic, and so on. So without further ado, let’s jump into Lafreniere’s game!
Lafreniere’s 2018-19 Season
The St. Eustache, Que native, played for the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) all of last season as an assistant captain. Keep in mind, he was 16 years old for the brunt of the season, turning 17 midway through. In 61 games with Rimouski, Lafreniere set the QMJHL on fire with 37 goals and 68 assists for 105 points. That’s over a two-point per game pace, against mostly older competition, with some of that competition having already been drafted. For those that didn’t know, he helped the Oceanic make the postseason and played in 13 games before falling to the Rouyn Noranda Huskies in a four-game sweep. However, no one can really point a finger at Lafreniere, because he put up an outstanding 9 goals and 14 assists for 23 points in those 13 games, putting him just a hair under that same two points per game pace he had in the regular season.
Lafreniere was also selected to play for Team Canada’s Under 20 World Junior Championship roster this year. Against tougher, and older, competition, Lafreniere posted somewhat lackluster production, with just 1 goal in the 5 games played. While that is somewhat disappointing, he was playing against competition older and more experienced than him, some even four years his elder! So while it wasn’t his best performance, it’s still respectable.
Lafreniere Scouting Report
In order to get a closer, in-depth look at Lafreniere’s game, I watch film on him using ProspectShifts.com, which is a subscription-based site that posts shift by shift videos of most prospects in this draft or future drafts.
Lafreniere very clearly plays a power game, as he is always looking to throw his 6’1, 192 pound frame around the ice. His skating is extremely methodical and fluid, with outstanding balance, powerful strides, and excellent edgework. He is extremely hard to knock off the puck and even harder to knock down to the ice. He can stop on a dime and make extremely tight turns in order to stick with a play. However, he does not possess blazing speed. While he is a powerful skater and is very hard to contain, he doesn’t quite have breakaway speed, and this is something to keep an eye on this season. However, this isn’t something that holds him back. He uses his outstanding edge work and balance to go through the defense, rather than go speeding around it.
He is very good at protecting the puck, which adds to his ability to go through traffic successfully and still remain with possession of the puck. He is an incredible passer, seemingly never missing a teammate. He pairs his fantastic passing ability with his elite vision and hockey sense, making him a lethal playmaker. He isn’t just limited to passing however, as he possesses a hard and accurate shot, with an insanely quick release.
Without the puck on his tape, he always finds an open area on the ice, exploiting the coverage of the opposition and getting open for passes. With his off-the-puck movement at a high level, he became a key player on the Oceanic powerplay, and projects to be an elite powerplay winger in the NHL. He is a transitional dynamo, able to break pucks out of the defensive end and into the offensive end effectively, time and time again. He is a hard forechecker, getting right in after the opposition and forcing turnovers, or generating big hits.
He does lack an effective backcheck, but that’s a small part of his game that is easily coachable and can be adjusted this season. He helps support his teammates down low in the defensive end and does an excellent job containing the opposition and forcing turnovers. He uses his size and active stick to cut down passing lanes, and he isn’t afraid to get in the way of shots. He reads the play quickly and is almost always in the right position.
Visuals On Lafreniere
As I mentioned above, Lafreniere is a ridiculously good player on the transition. Watching film, I went back and gathered advanced stats on his transitional game, along with two other prospects. Here’s what I’ve compiled thus far.
Lafreniere has a lot of controlled exits (i.e, passing it out to a teammate or skating it out himself) compared to his uncontrolled exits (dumping or clearing it out of the defensive end) and his failed exits. As I gather more data throughout the season, it’s expected he will separate himself from the rest of the pack.
Lafreniere is very smart when it comes to entering the offensive zone off the rush, as he doesn’t fail often, and tends to get it in smoothly and efficiently. He tends to go for more controlled exits, often wanting to get the puck in and make sure it remains in his team’s possession, rather than dumping it in deep and chasing a 50/50 puck. He doesn’t have a whole bunch of entry attempts, but he still finds a way to take advantage of the chances he has.
While Quinton Byfield is currently ahead of Lafreniere (in the total games I’ve tracked), in both exits and entries, Lafreniere still does a considerable amount of work in the transition. As I continue to track more prospects, you’ll see just how good both Byfield and Lafreniere are on the transition.
Lafreniere, as it stands, is the projected number one prospect in the 2020 NHL Draft. He does everything right, as he is a dangerous offensive player, a smart defensive player, and an effective transitional player. He has all the right tools as well, with his off-the-puck movement, physical play, and strong skating ability. He has very few flaws, and even the flaws he does have can easily be fixed.