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NHL Draft

Lafreniere's well-rounded performance impresses at Top Prospects Game

Likely No. 1 pick at 2020 NHL Draft shows he can do more than score

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

HAMILTON, Ontario -- Alexis Lafreniere had the most memorable play of the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at FirstOntario Centre on Thursday, even though it didn't count.

Lafreniere, who was captain of Team White, reminded anyone watching why he's the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. The left wing with Rimouski in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League not only displayed his dominant offensive skills, he killed penalties, threw a few impressive body checks and even shifted into the circle from left wing for a few face-offs.

"I tried to show my game and tried to keep things simple," Lafreniere said. "I think that was a pretty good game for our line. We got a good offensive-zone time and think it was pretty good."

It was more than just pretty good. For a moment he also had a first-period goal, taking the puck 1-on-3 against Team Red, finding a gap between two defenders and snapping a low shot under the glove of goalie Brock Gould. However, replay review showed Team White was offside.

"I thought I had a little bit of room to get in the zone," he said. "I faked a shot and I had a quick opening and I just brought the puck at the net. It worked but it was offside so it's not a goal."

Tweet from @Hockey_Robinson: Alexis Lafreniere with the shimmy shimmy shake. 2-1 White pic.twitter.com/M6FMNEdTHP

During a Team White power play during the third period he skated the puck hard down the right side of the Team Red zone and, without looking, dropped a pass for Cole Perfetti for a scoring chance.

"Getting a pass like that, not too many guys can make that play," Perfetti said. "He's got elite vision and he's a great player and a lot of skill. He really showed that tonight."

It was more than offense. At the end of his first shift Lafreniere (6-foot-1, 196 pounds) threw a big hit on Quinton Byfield (6-4, 215), with Byfield clearly getting the worst of the exchange.

"I felt it quite a bit," Byfield said. "He's a solid guy and he likes those battles. It was a nice hit."

Lafreniere also threw a hit on Jeremie Poirier early in the second period that flipped the defenseman over.

Tweet from @JoshTessler_: Alexis Lafreni��re (Rimouski) doesn't just score goals, he can lay the hammer. Quality forecheck.📹- @Sportsnet @FCHockey pic.twitter.com/YaOQjFSina

Lafreniere isn't the kind of player who runs around hunting opponents, but he said a few good checks, especially early, can get him going.

"If I can get involved physically I think it can help me get into a game," he said. "That's something I try to do."

Poirier said he's played against Lafreniere since they were 12 years old; those battles have continued into the QMJHL, where Poirier plays for Saint John.

"I've seen him grow and I know as a player he can do everything on the ice," Poirier said. "That's why he's so special. Probably going to go first overall."

Lafreniere said he's not trying to spend much time focusing on the draft, scheduled for Bell Centre in Montreal, because it isn't until June 26-27.

But between being voted the most valuable player award while helping Canada win the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship on Jan. 5, being ranked No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters on Monday and his complete effort Thursday, Lafreniere is doing his best to cement his status as the No. 1 prospect.

"It would mean a lot, for sure," he said of being selected No. 1. "It's your dream to get drafted into the NHL growing up. And as a player you always want to go as high as you can, so [going No. 1] would be special."

 

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