Tuesday, October 6th, 2020, a date that could push the New York Rangers towards greatness. Or deprive them of all their hard work. It’s true, a team selecting the first overall pick can make a fatal mistake, which can alter their franchise for years to come. If you’re worried about who they will choose, don’t look at their most recent first overall selection back in 1965. Andre Veilleux was selected first by the New York Rangers and never saw an NHL game. While that draft may have been a complete bust, I have higher hopes for this draft, in what could be a franchise-changing selection if the Rangers pick correctly. But this time, The Rangers have the opportunity to draft Alexis Lafreniere.
When the New York Rangers ping pong ball was selected first during the NHL draft lottery, somewhere in Canada, Alexis Lafreniere’s mind began to wander. He imagined the bright lights, the skyscrapers, the pizza, The Garden, the fans, the whole New York experience! From a player’s standpoint, It’s likely everything he envisions may come true. But from a writer’s perspective, we must take a look at these odds objectively. Lafreniere is projected by many writers, scouts, hockey enthusiasts, and so on to be selected first. However, this does not mean the Rangers have to select him. Their franchise’s fate is in their hands, for they get one pick out of the variety of well-prepared players to improve their team. The Rangers must select the player who will better fit their team, rather than the player who has the most hype surrounding them.
For instance, take a look at the 2018 NHL draft, for example. The 2nd overall pick, Andrei Svechnikov, had 14 more points than the first overall pick, Rasmus Dahlin, this past season. The stats do not define which team made the better selection. Moreover, it emphasizes picking the proper player that caters to your team.
Who is he?
One of the most anticipated players to reach the NHL is only a few days away from being drafted. Throughout 173 games with Rimouski Oceanic, the game-changing forward tallied 297 points, an astounding number. This past season, he also went on to help Team Canada capture yet another gold medal in the World Juniors Championship. He accumulated ten points in five games in a clutch performance to help win Canada the gold. As for his numbers, you can tell they are off the charts. He is also one of two players to be awarded MVP of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League…TWICE! The other player to do so was Sydney Crosby. With Crosby and Lafreniere’s name in the same sentence, it gives you an idea of what’s to come.
How does he play?
Many have regarded Lafreniere as the next Mcdavid or Crosby. Still, it’s unfair to say he is solely a recreation of these two players. Lafreniere is different. He has puck handling like Crosby, edges like McDavid, but he’s got another secret for a forward, to the likes of which we may have never seen a player hold. He’s got grit, desire, and, most importantly, he wants to win. All of those are critical factors if you’re going to do well in Madison Square Garden. With a coach like David Quinn, who doesn’t play favorites, Lafreniere will have to earn his playing time and be a competitor, which plays into his favor. Many of his previous coaches said he is never afraid to go into the corners and get gritty when he has to. Which is eye-opening for coaches
One notable feature about Lafreniere is that he is one of the oldest and most prepared player in his draft class. He is 6’1”, 194 lb’s, which is about McDavid’s size when he was going into the draft. There is a considerable difference in size when you compare Jack Hughes, the 2019 1st overall pick, and Lafreniere. Who has an extra three inches and 25 lbs on Hughes. Another factor taken into consideration when drafting is the player’s age. The projected 2nd overall pick, Quinton Byfield, just turned 18 on August 19th of this year. Whereas Lafreniere is set to turn 19 a few days after the draft on October 11th. This big age gap could signal the Rangers towards drafting the player who will most likely have a dominant first season. All in hopes of winning the cup.
The decision of who to draft
In my opinion, the decision may not be clear cut. Still, it certainly weighs towards drafting Alexis Lafreniere as oppose to Quinton Byfield and Tim Stuetzel. When guys like Lafreniere is figuratively towering over his fellow draft opponents, you must go with the player who has the best chance of upside and the smallest chance for any downside. Now is not the time for the New York Rangers to start gambling on other players, or going out on a limb. The Rangers can do so when there’s a low risk, high reward scenario. We’ve seen them do it with players like Henrik Lundqvist (drafted 205th overall) and Igor Sheshterkin (118th overall). To many people’s surprise, both Hank and Igor have been astounding or on their way to that level. Remember, the Rangers have a history of going after players who are under the radar and overlooked.
Now is not the time to gamble.
To their credit, they usually find diamonds in the rough. In this case, when the diamond is locked up in a Jewelry shop, and you have the key to open it, you do so. Now I am not completely opposed to looking at other players in the draft. Like I said before, whichever player fits the team more is the player that should be drafted. But to pass on a player who could be working side by side Artemi Panarin is unethical. We need another contributor in the goal column, and this is a guy that can do that. He is also talented enough to boost our lower centreman’s confidence, like Chytil and Howden. Having a dominant winger for centermen to rely on is a necessity.
In Essence, when you’re presented with an amazing opportunity out of absolute luck, the Rangers must convert. They must draft the most promising player who can be supported by great players, coaching staff, and fans. Broadway is a big stage for a young star. Eventually, the star must make his way towards the big apple. In my opinion, I expect to hear Lafreniere’s name to be called first during the draft. So get your tickets, bring your date, and buy some popcorn. The show begins October 6th, at 7 pm EST, where the New York Rangers look towards the future.