The Rangers' sped up rebuild now kicks into an even higher gear.
Tuesday night's NHL Draft is the second time in is many offseasons where the Rangers have a top-two overall pick. They went with Kaapo Kakko with the second pick last year - behind Jack Hughes - and have now taken Alexis Lafreniere with the first overall selection in 2020.
The 18-year old is currently the captain of the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), but the Blueshirts currently would love to one day put a C on his chest on their sweaters.
And with his potential, it's certainly possible.
"We're really impressed with him,’’ Rangers' GM Jeff Gorton recently told reporters via Zoom. "We've had a few Zooms with him. Obviously we've done our homework on him, we've talked to a lot of people around him, and he's a really humble kid that gives credit to everybody around him. He's a good family kid. He works really hard. He's really focused. ... We've been nothing but impressed.’’
"Lafreniere attacks the net, has some physicality in his game and gets a lot of goals in the dirty areas," said Corey Pronman of The Athletic.
LaFrieniere, despite missing two games, was the MVP of the 2020 World Juniors, as his 10 points (four goals, six assists) -- the fourth-most in the tournament -- carried Canada to their 18th World Junior title. He was also named the best forward in the tournament.
He also won the Michel Bergeron Trophy -- the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award -- in the QMJHL in 2018.
And he's only gotten better. While his goals have ticked down a bit throughout his years playing in the QMJHL, his assists have gone from 38 to 68 to 77 in his three professional seasons.
"As a puck-carrier,
is a master at bending the defensive front and driving the puck through openings," says Elite Prospects. "He always maintains the same grip on his stick, forcing the opposition to guess if he's thinking shot or pass. Similarly, Lafrenière doesn't need to choose between pace or patience when determining his plans of attack; he can serve both masters at once."
“He doesn’t rely on one area of the game to be successful,” Craig Button of TSN said. “He can make plays, he can score, he can play in traffic and is determined to be in the guts of the action. With his physical maturity, he’s more than ready to handle the challenges and rigors of the NHL.”
Lafreniere would be the first Quebec-born No. 1 overall pick since the Pittsburgh Penguins took Marc-Andre Fleury in 2003. He'd also be the first Quebec-born skater to go first overall since the Tampa Bay Lightning took Vincent Lecavalier in 1998.
’s hockey sense and competitiveness are elite," said TSN's Bob McKenzie. He’s equally adept at scoring goals as he is making high-end plays. He’s a difference-maker every time he’s on the ice."
Artemi Panarin has six years left on his contract. He and Lafrenière
could be a fun duo for a long, long time.