Remember when the Rangers got swept by the Carolina Hurricanes last week? I do. Do I care? No. Not one bit. Yesterday was the best outcome imaginable for this season for the Rangers. We all know they over performed this season and were not going to get far in the playoffs anyway. But yesterday, the Rangers won the rights to the first overall selection and the chance to select French Canadien phenom, Alexis Lafreniere. On a team that is already loaded with young talent, the Rangers will add perhaps the best prospect since Connor McDavid.
The Lottery was very weird this year. It was the worst possible outcome for the seven teams that did not make the qualifying round as none of those teams were awarded the top pick. You have to feel bad for the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings owned the worst record in the NHL by far this season. At the time of the pause, they had 39 points, while the Rangers had 79. To add insult to injury, the Red Wings are not even picking in the top 3. The Kings and Senators round out the top 3, and then the Senators pick again at number 5. The Red Wings will pick number 4. They have a couple good young pieces in Dylan Larkin and Filip Zadina, but neither are the caliber of player Lafreniere is.
Along with 7 other teams, the Rangers were involved in the second lottery last night. All eight teams had a 12.5% chance of earning the top pick. Honestly, I was just hoping for anyone but the Penguins. The Maple Leafs ping pong ball pulled a John Tavares and bounced in and out of the slot before the Rangers ball landed at the top.
Now I would be lying if I said that I did not jump up and down and scream for a good minute. The Rangers already have an incredible amount of young talent in Adam Fox, Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, and Igor Sheshterkin. That does not even include guys who have not made their NHL debuts yet in Vitali Kravstov, K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundquist, and Morgan Barron.
Who is Alexis Lafreniere?
Alexis Lafreniere is widely considered to be the top talent in this draft. Lafreniere plays for the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL, a Junior league in Canada that has funneled players into the NHL. In his rookie season as a 16 year old, he scored 42 goals, the most by a 16 year old since Sidney Crosby (54) in 2003. In addition to his stellar rookie season, Lafreniere put up up 35 goals and 77 assists this past season in 52 games.
Lafreniere uses his combination of skill, size, and speed to make defenders look silly. He likes to model his game after Sidney Crosby. Furthermore, he has publicly announced his favorite player from this past season was Artemi Panarin. He will immediately slide into the Rangers opening night lineup and will make an immediate impact.
The only potential drawback to Lafreniere for the Rangers is that he is not a center. The Rangers have a ton of winger depth with Panarin, Pavel Buchnevich, Chris Kreider, Vitali Kravstov, and Kaapo Kakko. For that reason, the Rangers may look to take Quinton Byfield because he plays center. The Rangers need centers as they are likely to move on from Ryan Strome this offseason.
The Rangers have laid the foundation for what could be the NHL’s next dynasty. Obviously, they need to win and win more than once, but the Rangers have the pieces to be Stanley Cup contenders for the next 10 years. They would have been Cup contenders without Lafreniere, but adding him to the mix is simply unbelievable.
This team is going to be sooooo much fun to watch the next couple seasons. As one of the youngest teams in the league, look for their young talent to make big jumps in production next season. Kakko is the biggest winner here as now all of the pressure is off of him. He was seen as the savior, but with Lafreniere next to him, Kakko can just play his game and stick to what he does best. The Rangers will be a very good hockey team for many years, and the fun is just beginning.
-Pete Chatterton (@Pchat12)