LA Kings prospect Alex Laferriere is a fascinating case study for a myriad of reasons. Starting off the ice, he went to Harvard, his dad went to Princeton, and his younger brother committed to Brown. That alone is quite the trio of Ivy League institutions. Add in the fact that Laferriere credits his hockey IQ (along with his shot and vision) as one of his best strengths and you get a picture of intelligence on and off the ice.
A few weeks ago, he completed his college hockey career, coming soon after a rather significant high followed by an unexpected low.
Among the many highlights from his 2022-23 season came back in February, when Laferriere assisted on the overtime goal that sent Harvard to the Beanpot final — one of the most storied and well-respected tournaments at that level. Not to be outdone, just a few weeks ago, he scored the overtime goal to break a 0-0 tie and send Harvard to the ECAC title game.
Any lingering euphoria quickly wore off though when they lost to Ohio State in the opening round of this year’s college hockey playoffs.
In a moment, it was all over. Those events were simply a precursor to the inevitable, he was turning pro.
And that part of the story nearly requires a Harvard law degree to understand the nuances related to Laferriere signing with the LA Kings.
In a nutshell, he was looking to burn the first year of his CBA-mandated three-year Entry Level Contract (ELC). To do that, his contract needed to start with the 2022-23 season. Technically, he doesn’t have to play any NHL games this season, he just needs to be on the NHL roster. [ed. note – this is different than the ’10-game rule’ often referenced when talking about junior hockey players]
What came next was something that came down to timing. He and the organization wanted him to get a few games in with AHL Ontario. To do this, he needed to sign an Amateur Tryout Contract (ATO) with the Reign first, and then later sign his ELC with the Kings. Thus, as of this writing, Laferriere hasn’t actually signed his ELC. Instead, he’s playing two more games with the Reign this weekend in Abbotsford, then look for an official announcement of his ELC. He’ll join the Kings for their final two regular season games. Even though he isn’t expected to play, just being on the roster will burn the first year off his contract. Meaning, he’ll enter next season with two years remaining on his ELC.
Why do it this way?
“[Considering] how old I am — I’m a late ’01, but I can be looked at as an ’01, kind of with like Alex Turcotte and all those guys,” he said, when we recently asked about his contract situation. “I feel like my agents did a great job with that, and my dad was kind of involved with it too. I think with the age and the maturity that I am, I just want to give myself a chance with two years instead of three.”
If that made things even more confusing, let’s break it down even further.
What he means there is that his birthday coming in October pushed him to the 2020 NHL Draft. Turcotte (a February birthday) and the majority of other players born in 2001 were part of the 2019 NHL Draft class.
Turcotte’s ELC expires at the end of next season and he’ll be a Restricted Free Agent. That doesn’t mean much, other than it will get him a few years closer to being arbitration eligible. In the case of Laferriere, by setting up his contract as described above, he’ll now reach RFA status in the summer of 2025.
Again, all of this is very technical and only really appeals to the most ardent of hardcore hockey fans.
Let’s lighten the mood a bit…
Laferriere has played two games with the Reign thus far, coming last weekend against Coachella Valley and Colorado. What did he notice right away?
“Definitely a lot more physical,” he shared, with a the usual eye-opening facial expression that comes from seeing AHL action up close. “The [guys] were very welcoming and talking me through everything, like before faceoffs and everything.”
It hasn’t only been his teammates that have helped get him up to speed, though. The Kings organization has taken several opportunities since selecting him 83rd overall a few summers ago to try and get the New Jersey native more acclimated to life in Los Angeles.
“At Development Camp, they do a great job of letting you meet everyone and showing you where everything is,” he explained. “Then, getting to play with a couple of the guys during that camp definitely made it easier coming in here too.”
After only really spending time at the team’s training facility in El Segundo, did anybody tell him about the bus rides to Ontario for games?
“Yeah, when I’ve been out here to Southern California before, it was just in that one area,” he said with a little laugh. “So, they talked to me about the travel and stuff like that too. I had a little bit of an idea and was prepared for the scenic drive out [to Ontario]. It’s pretty nice.”
Why turn pro at this point, what made him think he’s ready?
“The coaching staff at Harvard was great with me,” remarked Laferriere. “We talked through everything and just being able to [discuss it all] with those guys, I felt as if I was ready and wanted to push myself to the next level.”
Reflecting back to that big overtime goal a few weeks ago for Harvard, was that sort of the peak of his college career?
“Being able to play in that rink at Lake Placid, where the Miracle on Ice was, it was pretty special,” he said with a big smile. “That goal, looking back on it, it wouldn’t have happened without my linemates. They made the whole play and I kind of just put it an empty net.”
Laferriere didn’t seem to waste any time when asked about the small number of games he’s expected to play with the Reign this month.
“Winning games!” he said without hesitation. “Right now, we’re just focused on winning games to try and get this team into the playoffs. The boys in that Reign room care a lot. No matter where I am, I just want to win games.”
Heading into this weekend, just one more win will get the Reign into this year’s Calder Cup playoffs. However, Laferriere will be up with the Kings by then. So Friday and Saturday are likely his last two games to actually play in this year.
He will be going through one more minor adjustment, though.
After officially signing his ELC and being added to the Kings roster, he’ll need a new number. His No. 18 wasn’t available when arrived in Ontario, as the Reign are now recognizing the jersey numbers previously retired in Los Angeles. With his 18 not available, he’s currently wearing No. 28.
“I know [Jaret] Anderson-Dolan has it with the Kings right now, so I don’t know what’s going to happen with that situation,” he said. “I used to be No. 14 growing up and in the USHL, so I like to say, ‘the 28 is double 14’ – which is a nice way to look at it.”
He’s going to need a new number come Monday. The rest will sort itself out over the summer.
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