Throughout the six-game preseason slate, new head coach Peter Laviolette told reporters that he’ll be flipping lines around to see what combinations work, and among those changes is sliding winger Alexis Lafreniere over to the right side.
The veteran coach said he’s spoken to Lafreniere about the move and the youngster is embracing the opportunity.
“I had conversations with him about playing the off-side,” Laviolette said. “He expressed to me that he’s comfortable with that and looks forward to that opportunity. I’m looking forward to giving it to him and seeing what he can do.”
Laviolette emphasized that this doesn’t mean the former first-overall pick won’t also play his natural left wing position in camp, but he’ll certainly get the opportunity to show what he can do on the other side to begin things.
“It’s good for a young guy like me,” Lafreniere told reporters following Thursday's practice. “I’ve always played left wing my whole career almost, but you got to be able to play both and I think for me, I can be good playing right too.
“I just have to adjust a little but and it’s nothing big, just try and get used to it. I hope I can do well there this season.”
Lafreniere, who signed a two-year bridge deal with New York this offseason, has struggled to live up to the sky-high expectations set for him thus far in his NHL career.
The 21-year-old’s shown some positive flashes over the years but has been bumped around the Rangers’ lineup and hasn’t seen many top-line or power-play chances.
He’s coming off a season in which he recorded 16 goals and 23 assists (39 points) across 81 games. Lafreniere became a healthy scratch for one game during this past season due to his lack of production. Making just his second playoff appearance, he was a ghost during the seven-game series against the Devils, failing to tally a single point.
With Laviolette behind the bench this year, there’s hope that Lafreniere and the rest of New York's young core will receive more opportunities to shine. With that in mind, he worked hard on improving his game this offseason and feels ready to roll heading into his fourth NHL campaign.
“It was a good summer for me,” he said. “I think I can do a lot more. I worked hard this summer to improve my game and I think I can help this team more offensively and just try to be the best player that I can be.”