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Alexis Lafrenière: one of the worst first-round career starts in 30 years

When the Rangers selected Alexis Lafrenière at the very top of the 2020 draft, we knew he was joining an already solid forward group. It was going to be tough for him to find playing time, but he was seen as a very high-caliber prospect, so we figured he’d eventually make the cut.

After all, the cream always rises to the top, as they say.

That said, after three years, the cream is still somewhat at the bottom in the case of the Quebecer. Sure, he’s had his moments, but on the whole, he hasn’t yet demonstrated that he’s a top-6 caliber guy in a big club.

In 216 games on the Bettman circuit, he has amassed just 91 points. And when you compare him to other first-round picks over the past 30 years, let’s just say he hasn’t had a great start to his career: among them, only Nail Yakupov, Marc-André Fleury, Rick DiPietro, Patrik Stefan, Chris Phillips and Ed Jovanovski had amassed fewer points after three seasons.

For those keeping score, there are two goaltenders and two (fairly defensive) defensemen in the mix. That means he’s only two forwards ahead (and behind defensemen like Rasmus Dahlin, Aaron Ekblad and Erik Johnson).

Once again, it’s important to remember that he’s not in the best of circumstances either. There are already a ton of big forwards in the Big Apple, and last year it was even worse with Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane joining the club at the trade deadline.

At the same time, not all first-round picks got it handed to them either. Lafrenière needs to give his coaches a reason to give him more ice time, and right now, he’s not doing it.

Will that change with Peter Laviolette? We’ll see.

I still think there’s a future in which Lafreniere becomes a good first-three forward in the NHL. He may never be one of the best players on the circuit, but he has the assets to shine in the Bettman circuit.

That said, he’ll need to start translating that into offensive production, and ideally, that should happen sooner rather than later. The Rangers may continue to believe in him (at least, that’s what they say publicly), but the fact remains that he’ll have to prove to them that he deserves their trust.

I have a feeling that next season will tell us a lot about the future of the Quebec forward. The change of coach could allow him to take off, but another difficult campaign will start to raise a lot of red flags.

It’s up to him to prove himself.

In bursts

– Of course.

– Speaking of the Rangers.

– An 11-0 thaw hurts.

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