The anticipation was building. When they won Part Two of the flawed lottery two months ago, the worst kept secret in New York City was that Alexis Lafreniere would go first overall to the Rangers. Following a long postseason and patient wait, Lafreniere’s dream finally came true during tonight’s live first round of a special video format NHL Draft.
Predictably, GM Jeff Gorton made Lafreniere wait it out until time expired before making it official. The top ranked scoring left wing was very pleased to become the first player from the Province of Quebec to go number one overall since Marc-Andre Fleury did in 2003. You could tell that it meant a great deal to him.
Family Photo Op: Newest Rangers top pick Alexis Lafreniere celebrates his selection with his sister and parents from their home in Quebec. AP photo credit New York Rangers via Getty Images
The 19-year old playmaking left wing was also quite respectful on joining the Rangers organization. Via a video conference call with Jamie Hersch of NHL Network, he spoke highly about the history of the franchise. He also loved putting on a New York jersey. Lafreniere looked good and at ease while his family celebrated the historic draft pick.
Even though it wasn’t like he probably envisioned, it’ll be a day he’ll remember forever. So will the Rangers, who moved one step closer to being more competitive. It’s definitely exciting for Blueshirt fans. This is the first time the team has had the chance to take a player first overall since 1965. Back then, it was different. This feels different because it is. It just doesn’t happen.
While getting Kaapo Kakko at number two last year was nice, Lafreniere at the top spot is a home run. He won’t struggle to adjust to the NHL level either. There isn’t a language barrier or a skating issue for the very speedy and instinctive young teenager. It should be much easier if he eventually winds up teaming with Artemi Panarin on a top line. Who will center it they’ll worry about later. Especially considering that it looks like Ryan Strome could be either traded or become a unrestricted free agent by tomorrow.
The Rangers also pick at number 22. What they decide to do with the pick acquired from Carolina, could depend upon what players are still available on the draft board. It won’t be Anton Lundell, who just went 12th overall to the Panthers. They do need a center. We’ll see where they go.
That’s if they hang onto the pick. We’ll have more on the big first round later.