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Lafreniere believes he did enough to be No. 1 pick in 2020 NHL Draft

Forward led QMJHL with 112 points, won MVP of World Junior Championship

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Alexis Lafreniere said he believes he did everything possible this season to convince NHL teams that he should be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Lafreniere's season with Rimouski in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League ended Monday when the Canadian Hockey League announced the cancellation of the playoffs for the QMJHL, the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League, and the Memorial Cup, due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

The 6-foot-1, 196-pound left wing led the QMJHL with 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) in 52 games, and led CHL players with an average of 2.15 points per game. He had 30 multipoint games, including seven points (one goal, six assists) against Quebec on Feb. 16. He's No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of North American skaters eligible for the 2020 draft.

"I tried to do my best to play as good as I could in every game I was in, and for sure there's some really good players around the world, so you never know who's going to go No. 1," he said Wednesday. "But I tried my best to play as good as I could."

Lafreniere said he's been keeping busy at home, working out two hours a day and spending time with his family in St. Eustache, Quebec. He said no one in his family has experienced any symptoms of the virus.

"I didn't have much time to spend with my family this year with everything going on and while living in the billet (home), but it's good for us to spend time and talk," he said. "We play a couple games, but we just talk, watch TV together, watch movies and share dinner together, just little things like this. It's not fun right now with the coronavirus, but it's easier for sure that I'm with them. I'm home and I can stay here until everything (is back to normal)."

The 18-year-old also dominated against older competition, with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games to help Canada win the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship. He missed two games during preliminary-round play with an injury to his left knee but returned for the medal round, had six points (three goals, three assists) in three games, and was named the tournament's most valuable player. 

"The World Juniors was a really big moment for me," Lafreniere said. "Growing up you dream about it and we didn't get the result we wanted (at the 2019 WJC), so to come back this year and to be able to win that was a big moment in my career so far."

Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr said Lafreniere's performance at the WJC left little doubt who the top player eligible for the 2020 draft was.

"While the top prospects of this draft class continue to distinguish themselves, Lafreniere has actually elevated his level of play to separate himself as the top prospect for the 2020 NHL Draft," Marr said after the WJC. "Injuries are part of the game and, thankfully, this one was not as serious as it looked.

"The two outstanding qualities for him are his quickness and his poise. Every part of the game he's composed, he's smart about it, but he's quick and he has speed so he can execute plays. He sees the ice, reads the play. Everything he does is at a high tempo."

Rimouski (38-18-8) finished fourth in the QMJHL with 84 points.

"I think we had a great team this year and we believed that we could do something special; I had a lot of fun playing in Rimouski," Lafreniere said. "It's a little bit sad that the season came to an end quickly like this, but like I said, everyone has to stay healthy and that's the important thing."

Lafreniere said he isn't concerned about the future or when the 2020 draft might take place.

"I really live it day by day and try to control what I can control, and the most important thing is that everyone stays healthy and we try to come back as soon as possible," he said. "It's still an honor to get drafted and by an NHL team, it's really special for sure. We're living day by day right now, so we'll see what happens. 

"I'm staying at home and working as hard as I can, trying to gain some strength, so when it's time to come back I'm going to be ready."


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