Before you read about the potential linemates for Alexis Lafreniere, I must first establish his role. I believe he is going to play for the New York Rangers. After being drafted first overall in the 2020 NHL draft, Lafreniere has a lot to live up to in the big apple. Especially with Kaapo Kakko making amazing strides this past season, but not necessarily living up to where we would have imagined on the score sheet. However, that is not a major problem. I am happy with where Kakko stands right now, however, I will have to save my thoughts on Kakko for another article. Back to Lafreniere, the desperate call for another offensive contributor on the New York Rangers will finally be answered. Thanks to a lot of luck when drafting Lafreniere, his addition to the Rangers couldn’t be a more perfect fit.
Lafreniere’s Role On Broadway
This upcoming season is going to be a big one for the New York Rangers. A completely different team that will take the National Hockey League by storm. With only 1 player remaining from their Stanley Cup appearance in 2014, that player being Chris Kreider, the rebuild appears to be growing exponentially well. Although the Rangers have a freshness in the way they play, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time, they lack depth on the score sheet. The looming problem last season for the New York Rangers was the inability to get a variety of offensive contributors. While Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin grew their names in the headlines, after those two players, it trickled down steeply to players who rarely cashed in during games. Which is exactly where Alexis Lafreniere comes in handy.
The offensive threat has a tremendous shot and dekes. With the ability to find the back of the net from anywhere on the ice, he has been nicknamed the next Crosby or McDavid. He will most likely play a vital role on the powerplay either playing on powerplay 1 or 2. A future powerplay 1 line would most likely consist of Mika Zibanejad, Alexis Lafreniere, Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin, and Tony DeAngelo. Boy just thinking about that line is making me excited. Lafreniere also offers a leadership presence and ability to be clutch when the pressure is on: which certainly goes hand in hand with the famous coined phrase, “Play like a New Yorker”.
Third Line Menace
Although it may be surprising to some, Lafreniere is most likely going to find a spot on the third line. Although playing aside extremely talented players like Panarin and Zibanejad will certainly improve his style of play, he will be able to obtain enough information alongside them in practice, in the locker room, and occasionally on the same line. The reason he makes perfect sense on the third line lies in its high potential for scoring. He will presumably play left wing, and centering him in my opinion, should be Filip Chytil. I’ve touched on this many times before. In order for Chytil to fully make the jump from a young player with talent, to a dominant greenhorn with confidence, he must play beside some of the top wingers on the team. One of them being Alexis Lafreniere.
Much like Lafreniere, Filip Chytil has an abundance of skills and potential. What he lacks, is the ability to lean on a player to help him score. His line often fails to create high-quality scoring chances. With the addition of Lafreniere, a winger who can dangle through plays much like Chytil, I predict there could be some serious chemistry between the two.
There are multiple right-wingers that I could see fitting in with this line. The Rangers have very capable wingers like Philip DiGuiseppe, Brendan Lemieux, and Julien Gauthier who could find themselves on the third line. These are my top 3 players who could find themselves alongside Chytil and Lafreniere. All three wingers are capable of playing on the third line, as well as playing with such high caliber players. The problem that arises is which player is the best fit. In my opinion, I think Brendan Lemieux would be the best fit for this line and would make perfect sense. With every great line, you must have independent, unique players. Lemieux would offer the final piece to the puzzle that this line lacks; which is a forechecker who is physical, gritty, and quick.
Not to mention that having a tough guy to look out for Lafreniere can create a lot of chemistry and a strong bond.
With Lemieux’s tough, oppressive style of play, this will allow Chytil and Lafreniere the ability to create turnovers and then set up in the offensive zone for scoring chances. Another great reason Lemieux is a perfect fit for this line is his need for points. While doing decent on the score sheet this past season with 18 points in 59 games, playing with the best player in this past draft could boost his point total and confidence! Having three consistent contributors on a third line could be an x-factor when playing against other teams. With the right blend of physicality, leadership, and hockey IQ, the third line reputation will certainly improve. Especially when you combine these three unique game-changing forwards into one line.
Quite frankly, Lafreniere is a player who can improve the players around him, as well as himself. A characteristic that usually only applies to those on the first or second line. As for Lafreniere, with his outstanding assortment of hockey skills, I assure you team demeanor around the league will change drastically when they face the lethal third line of the New York Rangers.