Since Alexis Lafrenière was in his early teens, he has been talked about as a potential No. 1 overall pick.
Now it's official.
Just five days short of Lafrenière's 19th birthday, the New York Rangers ended years of anticipation by selecting the coveted Canadian forward with the first pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
The draft was originally planned for late June in Montreal — which is less than an hour from Lafrenière's hometown of Saint-Eustache — but the coronavirus pandemic pushed the date back to October and moved the event to a virtual setting.
Watching from home Tuesday with family, the 6-foot-1, 193-pound left wing witnessed his long wait come to an end. He is one of the more accomplished No. 1 overall picks in recent years, with two Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year awards and a world junior championship MVP already under his belt.
Alexis Lafreniere was taken No. 1 overall by the New York Rangers. (Photo: Ryan Remiorz, AP)
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Lafrenière played the last three seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Rimouski Océanic, the same team that produced 2005 No. 1 pick Sidney Crosby. They are the only two players to win the CHL yearly award twice.
Over the course of 173 games with Rimouski, Lafrenière accumulated 297 points (114 goals and 183 assists) — an average of 1.72 per game and nearly 100 per season. His best season came in 2019-20, when he led the QMJHL with 112 points (35 goals and 77 assists) in 52 games, which works out to an average of 2.15 per game.
Many scouts feel that Lafrenière would have been the No. 1 pick if he was eligible last year, too. His combination of skill, strength, high-level production and competitive fire make it difficult to identify holes in his game, although his skating has been occasionally criticized as average, or only slightly above average.
Lafrenière solidified his position as the No. 1 pick with a standout performance at the 2020 world junior championships. He bounced back quickly from a knee injury that many felt would prevent him from finishing the tournament to lead Canada to the gold medal. Despite playing only five games, he produced 10 points (four goals and six assists) and was named MVP.
"The big thing about Alexis is that he's a clutch player," Team Canada coach André Tourigny told the USA TODAY Network. "He is a good player when the pressure is on. When the game is on the line, he’s the kind of guy who wants to be on the ice."
That bodes well for the Rangers, who are expected to insert him directly into their NHL lineup and see how he performs under the bright lights in New York City. Lafrenière will join one of the youngest cores in the league, right alongside last year's No. 2 overall pick, Kaapo Kakko.
Vincent Z. Mercogliano is the New York Rangers beat reporter for the USA TODAY Network. Follow him on Twitter @vzmercogliano.
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