In a shocker, the New York Rangers won the NHL Draft Lottery. Part Two of the odd format somehow worked in the Rangers favor. They went from having a minute 2.5 percent chance when Part One was held in late June to cashing in on a 12.5 percent chance to win the number one overall pick in the October Draft.
A deep draft that features consensus number one pick Alexis Lafreniere, it looks like you’ll see the highly rated 18-year old from Quebec City in a Rangers jersey. A great skater with top end skill, he is the kind of high scoring forward this franchise has lacked forever.
Lafreniere was a huge part of Canada’s success capturing the gold medal at the World Junior Championships. In five games, he produced four goals and six assists for 10 points to win the Tournament MVP. He had a great season for Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). In just 52 games, Lafreniere recorded 35 goals with 77 assists for 112 points.
Listed at 6-1, 192 pounds, the left wing can slot right in on either the Rangers first or second line. The question becomes what to do with Chris Kreider, who fits in so well alongside Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. They can always have Lafreniere start out on the second line with Artemi Panarin. I’m not sure either Ryan Strome or Filip Chytil will be here when the ’20-21 season begins.
I could see the Rangers organization deciding to shop Chytil or Buchnevich for a true number two pivot. It would make sense. Would Kreider consider playing the other side to help accommodate Lafreniere? He can take face-offs occasionally. But Kreider is a power left wing, who they signed long-term. With Panarin, Kreider and Lafreniere, the Blueshirts suddenly have a bevy of talent on the left side.
What about 2019 second overall pick Kaapo Kakko? He definitely needs to have a top six role. But he’s not better than Lafreniere, who has the speed and hands that will be scary for opponents. Kakko can continue to work on improving his skating and become stronger. He is only 19.
This sure changes things. I am in complete shock. I said I wouldn’t watch and I didn’t. I didn’t expect it. Not with the Leafs, Oilers and Pens all in the final eight that included the Panthers, Predators, Jets and Wild. It’s amazing. I am stunned.
When our inner circle of friends messaged in our chat about the Rangers winning the lottery, I didn’t believe them. We always razz each other. So, I figured they were pulling my leg. It wasn’t until my brother Justin confirmed that they really won that I reacted. It’s hard to believe. I have no idea what else to say.
This isn’t going to sink in for a while. The Draft isn’t for another two months. The off-season just became a lot more exciting. The Rangers made history today. They will pick first and likely select Lafreniere. It feels like a dream.
In what’s been a rollercoaster of emotions due to the pandemic and many lives lost and families affected throughout New York City, New Jersey and around the country, this is something else. It’s a great day if you love the Rangers. Maybe not so much if you’re a rival fan close-by.
I can just see it now. Rigged. Fixed. But if that were true, wouldn’t it have been the Maple Leafs or Oilers? Heck. I was worried about the Pens winning this thing.
I’m going to have more thoughts tomorrow on the off-season. It’s going to be a wild ride.