As sports across the world have been adjusting and planning to the COVID-19 pandemic, we return with a look on the next event further reshaping the Kings future: the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Los Angeles’ late-season surge of a seven game-winning streak before the NHL shut down pushed the Kings to 28th overall – the fourth overall pick in the draft. As we know, however, Lady Luck and the hockey gods have had other plans in the past. We ask ourselves: since the Kings fell down three spots to pick fifth overall last year, what if the design is for movement upwards to first overall?
The league’s plans on concluding the 2019-20 season have bring many questions to everyone. One thing we are become certain of, however, is the expected first overall pick whenever the draft occurs.
Date of Birth: October 11, 2001
Weight: 192 lbs
Lafreniere spent his entire 2019-20 season with Rimouski Océanic, where he scored 112 points (35 G, 77 A) in 52 games in the QMJHL.
It Might Sound Familiar
If a projected first overall pick in the NHL hailing from Rimouski does not ring a bell, it should. It was the old stomping grounds of superstar Sidney Crosby prior to being drafted in 2005.
The Comparisons Don’t End
Like Crosby, Lafreniere won gold with Team Canada at the WJC in his draft year. They received similar accolades as well from the QMJHL, including the Mike Bossy Trophy (for best professional prospect), most assists, Jean Beliveau trophy for most points, and Michel Briere trophy for most valuable player.
Even Higher Honors
Despite being outscored by Los Angeles prospect Samuel Fagemo in the WJC, Lafreniere had such an impact to Team Canada, he was recognized as the MVP of the tournament. The other recent prospects who achieved this honor in their draft year include Jesse Puljujärvi (2016), John Tavares (2009), and Marc-André Fleury (2003).
Rankings by Independent Scouting Services
The Draft Analyst: First. “A gifted scoring winger with outstanding hockey sense and the ability to elevate his game when the situation necessitates it, Lafreniere is poised to become the first French-Canadian skater to go first overall in the draft since Vincent Lecavalier was the top pick in 1998. Although there are many things about Lafreniere that scream elite, specifically his vision and deadly wrist shot, it’s his insanely-high compete level, tenacity on the puck, and selflessness that set him apart from all his peers. Play him on a line with equally-heralded or accomplished prospects, and he’ll make it a point to tap into their strengths rather than make himself the center of attention. Lafreniere is an excellent skater in all directions, but his powerful stride allows him to separate from opponents in open ice. He can tailor his game to fit any style of play, and his ability to play physical causes significant matchup problems for smaller opponents.”
NHL Central Scouting Services: First among North American skaters. They remarked: “Exceptionally smart player with top-end speed and a pull-away gear. He’s great at carrying the puck and leading rushes and executes under pressure, has great vision and anticipation. Lafreniere offers high-end puck skills and vision to create plays, has an impressive compete level every time he’s on the ice, and elevates his game in pressure situations while demonstrating leadership skills.”
Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects: Second. While it is a surprising ranking, they admitted he’s worthy of a first overall pick. He hanged his rankings on another player potentially having a higher upside, but Robinson conceded Lafreniere was the better active player.
See For Yourself
Here’s a video of Lafreniere for you to see his highlights during the WJC for Team Canada this season.
We hear debates among draftniks of selecting “best player available” versus “fill an organizational need.” With Lafreniere, the Kings can accomplish both without question. The Rimouski superstar is touted as the best player available now by almost all pundits while also fulfilling the need for an elite winger.
Furthermore, there has been an evolution to his game. Two years ago, his goals accounted for 52.5% of his points. This season, the goal-to-points ratio dropped to 31.25%. This evolution in which he plays his game makes him a multi-purpose weapon. He plays with tenacity, skill, and intelligence, which makes him a welcome player in any organization.
Dale Hunter on Alexis Lafreniere: "He just loves hockey and loves to play. He’s a complete player, something the NHL wants and something we need from all of our guys."
— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) December 27, 2019
NOTE: David Hofreiter was the lead contributor in the gathering of information used in this article. You can find him on Twitter @Davidenkness to talk more hockey.