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Fantasy projection for Lafreniere with Rangers

Left wing has top-10 ceiling at position with exposure to Zibanejad, Panarin

by Rob Reese @NHLReese / NHL.com Fantasy Editor

NHL.com examines how left wing Alexis Lafreniere can make an immediate impact for the New York Rangers and projects his fantasy hockey value for next season. For more fantasy coverage, visit NHL.com/Fantasy and subscribe for free to the NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast.

 

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Alexis Lafreniere was selected with the No. 1 pick by the New York Rangers in the 2020 NHL Draft on Tuesday. Lafreniere, because of his individual skill and the elite fantasy talent around him on the Rangers, is projected to be the most-valuable fantasy rookie skater next season.

The left wing led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) in 52 games for Rimouski and had 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games for Canada at the 2020 World Junior Championship. He has been voted as the QMJHL MVP and Canadian Hockey Player of the Year in consecutive seasons.

The previous three No. 1 picks from the QMJHL were Nico Hischier of the New Jersey Devils in 2017, Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche in 2013 and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005.

Lafreniere, who turns 19 on Oct. 11, joins the Rangers, who have a wealth of fantasy talent with forwards Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, defenseman Tony DeAngelo and rookie goalie Igor Shesterkin. Lafreniere will likely slot into the top six, potentially gaining exposure to Zibanejad, who led the NHL in goals per game (41 in 57 games), on the top line, with Chris Kreider likely shifting to right wing.

This lineup placement would make Lafreniere a top-75 forward in standard 12-team fantasy leagues with the upside of finishing top 50 at the position and among the 10 best left wings, especially if his hits coverage carries over to the NHL. If Lafreniere starts the season on the second line with center Ryan Strome, it could hinder his fantasy outlook but would not affect his stock in keeper and dynasty leagues.

A role on the top power play is likely but not guaranteed for Lafreniere as the Rangers finished seventh in the League with the man advantage last season, converting at 22.9 percent, with their first unit consisting mostly of Panarin, Zibanejad, Kreider, Strome and DeAngelo. Lafreniere could replace Strome on the first unit, which would significantly boost the rookie's fantasy stock in all formats.

Zibanejad was tied for eighth in the NHL this season with 27 power-play points, Panarin was tied for 17th with 24 and DeAngelo was tied for ninth among defensemen with 19. If Lafreniere skates on the top power play with those players, it's safe to project him with at least 15 points in those situations.

If the best-case scenario plays out and Lafreniere skates on the top line with Zibanejad at even strength and PP1 with Panarin, the rookie's ceiling could be as high as 65 points, which would be the highest total of any rookie left wing since Panarin scored 77 points (30 goals, 47 assists) with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015-16.

The addition of another high-end forward solidifies the Rangers as a top-five team to target in fantasy drafts next season, and fantasy owners should expect Lafreniere to have a much greater impact than rookie forwards Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko in their first seasons. Lafreniere should be targeted as the No. 3 Rangers forward after Panarin and Zibanejad, ahead of Kreider.

Projection: 82 games, 22 goals, 43 assists, 65 points, 17 PPP

Draft range in 12-team fantasy league: Rounds 7 or 8

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NHL.com senior fantasy editor Pete Jensen contributed to this projection

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