Players

Despite lack of points, Alexis Lafreniere has been fine so far this season

A major topic this season has been Alexis Lafreniere’s play on the ice. He has a distinct lack of points, which is hard to ignore but easily explained away. There are already very grumpy people calling him a bust, which is asinine at this point. But hockey is more about points, even if you want him to be Connor McDavid right out of the gate. Lafreniere hasn’t looked lost out there, which is probably the most important thing to consider right now.

Ok play driving, mediocre defense

Lafreniere’s isolated results show he drives offense, even if the points aren’t there. He’s a net-positive 10% difference in expected goals, suggesting the on-ice SH% of 7.05% (4th worst on the team) is partially to blame here. The skill is there, the luck and perhaps the quantity of shots on goal isn’t. Something like this tends to even out over time, especially if we see the lineup get shuffled a bit.

Focusing on points for a second, Lafreniere isn’t getting significant powerplay time. This is a major factor in point production. The Rangers top powerplay unit gets about 1:30 of each 2:00 powerplay opportunity. At the moment, Lafreniere isn’t even on PP2, which is a whole other issue itself. To date, Lafreniere has a whole 52 minutes on the powerplay, compared to 157 Rangers’ powerplay minutes without him. That’s 25% of the powerplay time for the number 1 overall pick.

Defensively, Lafreniere does need some work. But that again is expected from a rookie. He’s not a black hole defensively, but the Rangers do perform better without him on the ice in this aspect of the game.

Better results with better ice time

The RAPM chart is consistent with the isolated heatmaps, showing that Lafreniere does struggle with defense at the moment, but is an offensive play driver. Something to take note of is Lafreniere’s GF/60, which is well below his xGF/60. This suggests, as mentioned above, that the on-ice shooting percentage is impacting his points and the overall perception. When there is such a gap, it’s either luck –on-ice SH%– or lack of individual skill. I think we can all agree it’s not the latter.

What this suggests is that Lafreniere will put up more points with more ice time, both at even strength and on the powerplay. It’s about a balance of getting Lafreniere the ice time he needs to develop, while also trying to enforce a winning atmosphere. We can debate ’til the cows come home about how to achieve this, and there are no wrong answers (in theory).

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Alexis Lafreniere’s rookie season. He’s doing what he can with what he’s got so far. The easy answer is more ice time, since there’s nothing in his play that shows he hasn’t earned it. The defense will come as he learns the NHL. The offense is there, it’s just the points that are lacking. Ice time matters, and this is why it’s a sticking point lately.

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  • I think he’s hit a bit of a wall, but he’s been overall “ok”. Don’t tell Ray that, he thinks Laf is the new Kakko this year, in other words the worst player in the League. 😉

    • Haha, whether it is Kakko or Lafreniere or Hank, Ray does like to stir it up. Which is OK, that is what comment discussions are about!

    • Kakko was -26 last year on a team where half the players were plus. While I don’t think Lafreniere is a true NHLer yet, there is not worst player evidence.

  • Clearly Lafreniere’s first season has been a disappointment. Other lesser touted rookies are having better seasons. No one is calling him a bust. Many eventual stars have needed a few years to figure it out, especially when starting in the NHL as a teenager. That said it is silly to try to explain away LAF’s rough first year with advanced stats. The eye test tells the story. His skating is not elite, nor any other aspect of his game. When playing on a talented “kids line” the line has usually struggled; leading to diminished playing time in the 3rd period if the game is on the line. It does temper expectations for his ceiling if he is so unproductive year one but way way too early to worry about him being a bust.

    • Reggie…What games do you watch? You can easily tell that he’s a higher end player just by the way he skates and moves the puck and stick handles. Everything about him yells elite player who’s playing timid not wanting to take chances and ruin the game for the veteran players. This isn’t stuetzle on Ottawa playing all the time, scoring- and the team losing. Nor is it Trevor zegras taking the reins from getzlaf and finding his own way. Nor is this kiril whos 24 and had been playing in the khl the last years with grown men and taking 38 year old Zack Parisis spot. This is a 19 year old who ended up on a semi playoff caliber team, behind the veteran ranger kreider and artemiy Panarin- top five player in the league.

      Timid and cautious is exactly what screams when you watch this kid play. He needs more ice time, and he needs the leash extended more to let him do his thing, if we want to see all of his skills.

      Otherwise he’s a cog in the machine slowly learning and helping the team win as a 3rd line player. And that’s all you can ask from a kid in that position.

  • LaF needs to learn the game at the NHL level. He is not a bust, but should be able to hit the scoresheet more than he has been. This is a real learning experience for him. I am guessing that he is following the Kakko path, where his 2nd season will show more signs of his talent.

    Side Note – This is why it is important to get Kravtsov and Morgan Barron NHL time. Let them both get their feel wet with 15 or so NHL games. I like Blackwell, Rooney, Phil DG and Howden, but guys like Gauthier, Barron and Kravtsov need to play the rest of the season with the big club.

  • Before the draft, LaF was being called another possible generational talent. The comparisons included Sydney Crosby. In Crosby’s first year his TOI was over 20 minutes per game and had over 100 pts. So did the hockey world overestimate LaF, because I don’t see anything close to generational. Panarin is our only superstar. Great talents drive play. LaF doesn’t. He may become a very good NHL player,but I would be pleasantly surprised(ecstatic) if he could match the bread man.

    • I think that I disagree. On this blog, at least, it was acknowledged that he wasn’t McDavid, Crosby or Auston Matthews. He was said to have elite skills, not generational talent.

      • This is right. My impression was that he was regarded as maybe average plus if one considered all #1 overalls, but not a generational talent. At this point, I think he will end up a little lower than projected. HOWEVER, as #1’s go, I think Rick Nash was a disappointment and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a major disappointment. Even the weakest #1’s end up as stars.

        Of Laf’s twenty most recent predecessors, fifteen were forwards. Ignoring the very young Hischier and Hughes (little data) and rating the other thirteen, only Yakupov was a washout and Nugent-Hopkins is actually a fairly distant twelfth. Taylor Hall probably ranks in the bottom half and he has a Hart Trophy. These guys are uniformly good.

        • “A Potential Generational Talent
          The term “generational talent” gets thrown around a lot. Generational is a term recently reserved for players like Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, and Henrik Lundqvist. These are players that transcend the game and can alter how the game itself is played.

          Lafreniere has the potential to be in that conversation. Ovechkin created the Ovechkin spot on the powerplay. Lundqvist revolutionized how goalies approach the position. McDavid is unmatched across the board. Crosby, pre-injuries, was just like McDavid. Lafreniere, given the right situation, can create his own generational history.

          That said, even if he doesn’t become one of those talents, his floor appears to be “just” elite. Think Patrick Kane, whom Lafreniere has said he models his game after. There’s so much potential here, as every scouting report of Alexis Lafreniere will say. The Rangers appear to have gotten themselves a can’t-miss elite prospect right out of the gate.”

          • Does his game remind you in any way of Patrick Kane? I cant find any similarity

          • Right now he fits the title of a Charles Dickens novel. Hope we don’t change that title to “Great Disappointment”.

          • As I wrote back in August:

            “ Lafreniere isn’t a generational talent, a notch below. He has all the tools and the toolbox, the only question is about if there’s any more upside. He had a man’s frame as a 16yr old, will be 19 by the time he’s drafted. Nobody’s the finished product at 19, but he’s pretty close.

            My player model has him as a regular all star, top 10 player in the league.”

            A big thing is that in Junior he always had the puck on his stick to create chances; can’t really do that in the NHL, especially with his skating. He’ll need to figure out what he needs to do away from the puck, but is going to take time.

          • Thanks.After seeing him playing is there anything in his game reminds of Kane? I can’t find anything.

  • Not met expectations but hopefully long run he’ll be solid. I’d just love to see one highlight reel move or goal or anything flashy whatsoever from him. Nothing jumping off the page, much like the kak

  • I think this kid’s introduction into the NHL has been anything but normal. He was drafted while sitting at home, didn’t get the chance to play any pre-season games where he could get his feet wet and get out any nervousness, he’s had no time to do normal team bonding due to the pandemic and being restricted to hotel rooms. He’s playing to mainly empty areas and with a crazy realignment schedule at 19 yrs old.. then we can throw in the Geo- Tony incident, the Panarin incident, Quinn getting covid and coaching the team remotely. Honestly, as a fan, I would throw this season out and consider it learning the league.

    sure there are rookies having better seasons but who are you comparing him to Krill the Thrill? who is being relied on to carry the wild behind Zucc? The Rangers have Buch, Mika, Panarin, Kreider to carry the team, Laf’s job this year is to figure it out and learn the ropes not carry the team..

    • Couldn’t agree more. I think the same issues with Kakko. Kid was at the worlds, went straight to the draft, then right to NY then traverse city tourney. Went home to get clothes and came back a week later for training camp. Then the season is cut short , then restarted months later, no pre season this year. Lafs biggest mistake was admitting that he didn’t skate for a while.

      If you want to measure him to other rookies do it based on Points vs TOI. Not he’s getting 8 minutes on a talent loaded team vs. Krill getting 20 minutes per game on Minn.

      • The numbers are 18:21 and 13:53, not 20 and 8. The notion that Laf is not getting proper TOI is just untrue.

        Comparing Kaprizov and Lafreniere, two things are clear. One: the former IS a much better player. Two: We are comparing a 19 yr old to a 23 yr old and the 23 yr old should be better. I would not be quick to swap players if I were Ranger management, but I do not pretend there are comparable players today.

  • Wish Laf got more time on a good line. heres the practice lines
    Kreider – Zib – Buch
    Panarin – Strome – Blackwell
    Laf – Chytil – Kakko
    PDG – Rooney – Kravtsov

    DQ is terrible

  • I think that he has played a bit tight. Overthinking the game and playing indecisively, not letting the game flow for him. That is probably in part due to never having had a real training camp to get used to the NHL game. At this point of the season he might also be feeling the grind as he is not used to an extended, every other day schedule.

    He is a big boy who probably dominated at other levels because of his size. In the off season he should get stronger, and when he has a real training camp before the opening of the next season I think you will see a more confident and stronger player. It will come.

    • “At this point of the season he might also be feeling the grind as he is not used to an extended, every other day schedule.”

      Don’t you see the irony here? One of the excuses being offered is that he may be tired dealing with a rough schedule. Meanwhile, people are blasting Quinn because he is not getting enough ice time. 13:53 a game is not a walk in the park for a kid. Last year, Kakko averaged 14:17, which was clearly too much for him to handle.

      • I do Ray. You are right, it is a fine line for a coach, that is true. I am not one of those calling for Quinn’s head. However, I would like to see him distribute ice time more evenly not only for kids like Lafreniere and Gauthier and Kratvsov, especially the latter who may be able to handle it, but also so as not to wear out Panarin, Zibanejad, etc. Fox has logged a helluva lot of minutes recently. I know he is young but let us not use him up so fast!

  • Like Kakko last year, these kids are ridiculously young. They have a few YEARS before they can even buy a beer. Think of Adam Fox. He’s great now and pushing for a Norris this season. But I bet he would’ve struggled immensely in the NHL at 19yrs old. Would that mean he sucked back then or is a bust? No, not at all. He just needed time.

    We just have a front row seat to the “time” needed for these kids.

    But I’ll say this about Laf… I think his skating could use some work. I wouldn’t say he’s slow. But he’s not especially quick either. That’s one thing that’s jumped out to me in watching him. I read somewhere that he put on weight in the off-season. I don’t know if that is true. But he looks like he could drop some of that to be a little quicker.

  • I think hes been generally underwhelming but I’ve seen enough to bide me to next season. But please get a coach that will get him on the pp

      • Just sayin’. First round pick, lots of hype, little to show for it. Not saying that we shouldn’t give him time, but our record on first round picks is not great.

        We should look for genuine NHL stars and use our first round picks as trade bait. If we had a real 3C, this team might be playoff bound. Chytil, Kakko and LaDisappoint all have years to go before they are real NHL stars.

  • Perhaps the most intriguing aspect to his play was his willingness to play physical and maybe even with an edge. I haven’t seen that at all to this point but maybe that’s just because he is still just a kid. If he get a little dirty in the corners and going to the net I’d feel better about him going forward.

    I thought I saw a tiny glimpse of that vs Buffalo. Need more.

  • He has a confidence issue. He should work in off-season with a good skating coach and hang out with Ponarin for stick handling. He was advertised as high hockey IQ. He has not shown that yet. But you can see great personality and potential leadership skills.

  • Two highly touted players…#1 and #2 respectively, fall into the Rangers laps…and in successive seasons , both struggle to even show any glimpse of the promises of why they were rated so highly. Now ask yourself, just what is the constant concerning the development of both players. You know what I’m getting at. Hey, they both will probably still attain/ or come close to reaching the levels of stardom that were predicted for both…but not without that one “constant” being removed from the equation. Listening JD? My God, right now, Oliver Wahlstrom is showing more, than the 2 of them put together! Lets stop sugar-coating this. I just heard that Blackwell is being promoted to the Panarin line……..for NO good reason other than, what, Kakko missed in the shootout? This has to be addressed this summer….or risk throwing away the future they’re always promising us.

  • Lafreniere will get better the more you play him. I think this is Quinn’s biggest miss. He also should be on PP1 to free up some space for him and get confidence. I would have him versus Strome who I think is max value to trade. A championship I think depends on getting Eichel. Get him on the cheap now.

  • There seems to be a ton of excuses for this can’t miss pick. Plain and simple…. he just isn’t getting it done. No if, and, or buts.

    If you took Connor McDavid as a rookie and put him on our 3rd line do you think he dominates? How long til he becomes our first line center? Talent seems to force coaches to do things that they normally wouldn’t do. And no one has seen any reason this season to change Lafreniere’s position in the lineup. Just that simple.

    Now are there mitigating factors? Without a doubt, but despite that he should be getting it done against 3rd and 4th line opponents with the highly touted draft analysis and that just hasn’t been the case. He seems to constantly be dragging his feet out there unless he lines up with Panarin.

    To say the least it has been a very uninspiring start to his career. But this is to be expected when you draft a LW first overall on a team loaded with “elite talent” on LW. I don’t know how many first overall picks ended up on the 3rd line in their first seasons but I bet it isn’t that many.

    I did a quick look and the only other first round pick to get the same amount of ice time as Laffy is Yakupov. Every other first round pick since 2010 average 17 plus minutes of ice time their first season. Scary part is his 14 minutes of icetime is still trumping Lafreniere 13 minutes. Just let out a really big sigh. We really suck as a franchise.

  • This diagnostic commentary sounds like a fact filled Defense for LaFreniere.
    But it isn’t valid. The fact of the matter is that he was highly touted as the next Sidney Crosby and has fallen far from that comparison.
    Having stated so, it’s still far too early to give up on the rookie. The adjustment takes longer for some than others. The biggest adjustment seems to be in mindset. Included in ice time is ability to realize that he is not the Center Stage player he’s been in most of his young career. Only time and effort will be the end game of his Saga.

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