Lineup Changes

Predicting what line Alexis Lafreniere will play on next year

Even before the offseason has ended, we are making our projected lines for the upcoming season. It’s hard not to when you get the first overall pick. But the one constant here is that we are all trying to guess what line Alexis Lafreniere will play on. There doesn’t seem to be a general consensus.

He’s Not A Center

Let’s just nip this one in the bud now. Alexis Lafreniere is not a center, so don’t expect him to slide into the 2C role any time soon. He’s a LW. Moving to center is very difficult, far more difficult than a center moving to wing. You don’t want to put that on a rookie.

Is Lafreniere capabale of playing center at some point? Maybe? We never thought we’d see Martin St. Louis at center, but then at 35 he was playing center for the Rangers. It’s not going to happen next year, though.

Easing Him Into The NHL

This is the prevalent theory, that the Rangers will ease him into the NHL. They already have Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin at LW, so starting Lafreniere on the third line seems to be the most logical scenario.

This also ensures that, barring any major roster changes, the top-six remain relatively unchanged. KZB will still be together, and Panarin will still have Kaapo Kakko on his line with a mystery center.

That means Lafreniere on the third line with….teammates? That remains unclear.

Future Top Line Winger

As this plays out, Kreider will move down the lineup, but before you get up in arms, that’s not a bad thing! If the Rangers want to compete, they need three or more legitimate scoring lines. Lafreniere is more skilled than Kreider, but Kreider is still one of the best net front presences in the league. Creating three legitimate scoring lines is a priority.

Easing Alexis Lafreniere into the NHL on the third line may not be a popular choice, but it’s the most logical based on what we’ve seen from the Rangers in the past. They did the same with Kakko, Adam Fox, Ryan Lindgren, etc. Don’t worry, he won’t be there long.

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  • I think where he plays is going to depend on how training camp goes. He’s going to get a shot at moving up, and I think he’s going to go for it. It’s just a matter of how quickly he adapts to the NHL game. If he can contribute offensively without being a defensive liability, he may very well end up playing with Mika.

  • Alex may start his pro career as a left winger, but he is a natural centermen. He is at his best with the puck on his stick and has the hockey sense to know how to play the position effectively. He will start on the 3rd line wing, most likely with Chytil and Gauthier.

  • Would like to see him move up to 1st line with breadman on right side and zobanejad centering. Starting on third line with chytiil and kakko would work to get him acclimated or lemiuex instead of kakko

    • Panarin is also a left winger so that won’t happen and that also puts all your eggs in one basket you want your scoring spread out. Now last 2 minutes of a game sure I can see that being the line but as a normal line not happening

  • I don’t know. You may be right about all this, but I have some doubts. First of all, it is surely easier to play top six than bottom six. You get to play with guys like Panarin. Kakko did not play third line to make his role easier. He didn’t play with Panarin because he was terrible and he would have been an anchor on Panarin. Seriously, if Panarin had preferred Kakko to Fast, it would have happened.

    I researched the #2 picks over the last decade and, with the exception of one player with serious injury concerns, they all turned out very well – headed by the likes of Hedman and McKinnon. So it would be very unlikely for Kakko to not be a star someday. But he is still only 19 and the player I saw against Carolina – when he was supposedly at his best – seemed oblivious to his teammates. He may still be a year away.

    OTOH, Lafreniere is a big assist guy – seems like someone with center mentality. I agree that it is a big adjustment for a rookie. But the Rangers need two top six centers and they need to know if Alexis is going to be one of those two sooner rather than later. So I would let him center Panarin – at least during camp. If the experiment fails, it is not about to crush him emotionally.

  • Kreider on the 3rd line with the possibility of Barron becoming his C could give the team more balance. A physical 3rd line that can check and score some goals is what we need.

    • Geno94

      Exactly Geno, with Gauth on the other wing, that would be a big line, with plenty of scoring potential. I see the centers being Zib, Chytil, and Barron.

    • “Kreider on the 3rd line with the possibility of Barron becoming his C could give the team more balance.”

      Assuming Kreider moves down just so Laffy can be his 3rd line center is foolish imo. Yes I think this will push Kreider down the lineup BUT IN ORDER FOR LAFFY TO START WITH Zib on the 1st line/PP1. Aka fixing up the top line and PP.

      6+ mill as 3rd liner? Better trade him soon while he still has value and hasn’t shown his age yet. I can promise that won’t last long for this club… Kreider is already just a 45-50 point winger who MIGHT actually touch 30 goals meanwhile he works with top mins next to elite names… He can do all of that next a top 15 center (Zib) and a top 3 winger (Panarin)… What can we expect a 3rd line Kreider with PP2 to become? 30-35 point winger at best? Come on now….. Lol

  • Starts the season on the 3rd line and 2nd PP unit. Let him move up as he earns it, and I expect he will. No need to force him.

  • I’m thinking he will start on 3LW, it makes sense yea he has potential to be so dominant and scoring 60+ points In his rookie season, but why rush him? He will be on the 3LW start of the season, by deadline will be 2 LW and after he plays a full nhl season he will be 1 LW, don’t rush the kid to be a superstar until he’s comfortable! Laf-chytil-guathier/kratsov would be a really fun line! Jus gotta order my 13 laf jersey LGR

  • Going way out on the limb. I’d ask Panarin to play right wing and let Lafreniere play on the left side with him. Since it looks like Strome will still be there, and he and Panarin have great chemistry, it may to be too much of a change. From what I’ve seen, Panarin is all over the place anyway and so is Lafreniere. They start one place and roam around. They both are great at all aspects of the game and it would be interesting to see them together. We know that Panarin wants to win and the best way is to have Laf be super successful and what better way than playing together. I think he’d go along but it is only my opinion.

  • I’d rather have him break in with guys who aren’t huge question marks themselves. Especially to that end, I think the miracle scenario is worth at least a look during training camp: What if it turns out he really CAN play center, and can be easily slotted in with at least one true veteran on a wing?

  • Honestly, I think they’ll play Lafreniere on 3rd line, just like how they did it with Kakko. Know I’m also guessing that his linemates will be Chytil for center, and for right wing Julien Gauthier.

  • Honestly, I think they’ll play Lafreniere on 3rd line, just like how they did it with Kakko. Know I’m also guessing that his linemates will be Chytil for center, and for right wing Julien Gauthier.

  • Alexis may very well end up being a center with the Rangers. He is 19, and never has played in the NHL before. So, I would not be surprised if the team eases him into the lineup. But, if in training camp he shows he can withstand the physical play immediately, then you might see him move up rather quickly. Hey, Alexis centering for Kakko or Kravstov or Chytil or Gauthier, are all possibilities as the Rangers could change some things up. Or he may begin as the left wing. This seems like a nice problem to have to sort out!

  • Doing pretty much the same and expecting different results is called insanity. Move Kreider to left wing on Panerin’s line, and move Panerin to right wing, resign Strome. Then place Lafreniere to left wing on Zibanejad’s line with Buch. Kakko is on Chytils line and needs to prove he’s capable of more than 2 assists at 5 on 5.

    • i think its clear that kakko is going to be more of a laine type. (not saying as good) but not gonna be a 60 assist guy if thats what you are looking for.

  • I can’t help but go back to this team’s ineffectiveness at Face-offs. The current crop of C’s we have are, shall we say, below-average at best:

    Zib: About 50% over the last few years, slightly below the last 2
    Strome: <48% the last two years, <45% before that
    Chytil: Must we………..
    Rooney (assuming he's the 4C): 47% last season, 49% the prior season

    If the idea is to lose Strome and throw Laf as a 2C or 3C, on the surface that scares me. This team is constantly up against it because it's always at risk in the defensive zone. I don't want to force our hopefully future superstar to play in a less familiar role where he most likely won't be better than 45% his first year on the job. To me that's bad for both him and the team.

    I'd much rather let him play LW where he's clearly been successful, and figure out the C situation some other way. Either keep Strome for a year or fond a decent, less expensive 2C/3C guy.

    (And pray to the hockey gods that Blackwell is a legit 50%+ FO guy and can take the 4C/defensive zone FO spot. Wishful thinking, but who knows……)

  • would like to see him with kakko on his other wing, but i dont expect panarin or kreider to give him that opportunity so easily. internal competition is good. it = depth.

  • Kreider Zibanejad Buchnevich
    Panarin Strome Lemieux
    Lafreniere Chytil Kakko
    Di Giuseppe Howden Gauthier

    Is what makes most sense to me.

    That 3rd line could be our future top line…. but I’ve fallen in love with the idea of letting our 1st round picks all playing together (wait…. what about Kravtsov?)

    HOPEFULLY he’s NHL ready by the time the KHL season is over, and he can slide into that second line slot with grace.

    Kreider Zibanejad Buchnevich
    Panarin Strome Kravtsov
    Lafreniere Chytil Kakko
    Lemieux Howden Gauthier

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