As part of our Road to the Draft content series, NewJerseyDevils.com will be profiling the top North American and European Skaters eligible for the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft. This will allow Devils and hockey fans at large to familiarize themselves with the next class of NHL talent. First up is the presumptive number one pick Alexis Lafreniere.
DEVIL IN THE DETAILS:
WEIGHT: 193 lbs
POSITION: Left Wing
DRAFT YEAR PRODUCTION: 52 GP, 35 G, 77 A, 112 P
WHAT'S THE BUZZ:
"Lafreniere offers high-end puck skills and vision to create plays, has an impressive compete level every time he's on the ice, and elevates his game in pressure situations while demonstrating leadership skills."
- NHL Central Scouting
CUT TO THE CHASE:
Alexis Lafreniere has long been considered the top prospect in the 2020 NHL Draft. The 18-year-old forward was NHL Central Scouting's top-ranked North American Skater during the midterm rankings and finished in the top spot for the final rankings as well. International Scouting Services also put him in their top spot of their top-31 prospects list. In fact, pretty much every single NHL draft publication or website has put Lafreniere at the top.
Barring some crazy, unforeseen and unlikely turn of events, the Devils, who currently own the seventh-overall pick, will not be selecting Lafreniere. But it's always good to learn more about the league's future stars and the draft class as a whole.
The chaos that was the result of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery means that the right to select first overall now falls to one of the teams who lose in the qualifying round of the Return to Play playoff format. We do not yet know which team will select first, but we know the eight losers of the qualifying round will each get a 12.5% chance at the pick. Lafreniere's position at the top of the rankings as largely been unchallenged. His numbers have lived up to the hype as well. In his draft year, Lafreniere wore the "C" for the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL and wore it well, leading the club in scoring with a total of 112 points (35-77-112). His next closest teammate, Cédric Paré had 88 points.
Even before his draft year, Lafreniere was tearing up the junior hockey scene. He was named CHL Rookie of the Year in 2018, QMJHL Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year (Michel Bergeron Trophy). He was also named to the QMJHL All-Rookie Team and QMJHL First All-Star Team. His second season in the QMJHL followed the first with him earning a gold medal at the Hlinka Memorial Tournament, along with being named the league's MVP and Personality of the Year.
His draft year accolades were many, including being named the CHL Player of the Year (for the second year in a row). He was also named the QMJHL's Best Professional Prospect (Mike Bossy Trophy), and was named a QMJHL First Team All-Star. In addition, he led the league in assists and points (Jean Beliveau Trophy), was named the MVP (Michel Brière Trophy), and was the QMJHL Personality of the Year (Paul Dumont Trophy).
He shined at World Juniors for Team Canada, scoring four goals and adding six assists in five games as the Canadians took gold. He was named to the tournament All-Star Team, won Best Forward and MVP. He played alongside Devils prospects Nolan Foote, Ty Smith and Kevin Bahl in the tournament.
In May, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News wrote, "the post-to-post champ. Lafreniere ripped up the 'Q' and fought through injury to win MVP honors at the world juniors, not to mention a gold medal with Canada. His skill, drive, and edge make him an elite talent.
The scouting report on Lafreniere is that he plays with superb poise and composure, exhibits high-end playmaking and vision, and exudes creativity. In addition, there is a bit of a physical edge to his game that allows him to make even more of an impact. In April, NHL.com's Mike Morreale likened Lafreniere to Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau.
NHL Central Scouting gave the following analysis:
"Exceptionally smart player with top-end speed and a pull-away fear. He's great at carrying the puck and leading rushes and executes under pressure, has great vision and anticipation. Lafreniere offers high-end puck skills and vision to create plays, has an impressive compete level every time he's on the ice and elevates his game in pressure situations while demonstrating leadership skills."
GIMME MORE DRAFT:
From now through the 2020 NHL Draft, visit NewJerseyDevils.com/draftregularly to see the latest draft coverage and content. Over the coming months, the New Jersey Devils editorial and content staff will publish fresh prospect profiles, feature stories, videos, Speak of the Devils podcast episodes with draft experts as the guests, Q&A interviews with experts, and more. Stay tuned and check back regularly for more.