Devils Draft Series: Alexis Lafrenière, Best Prospect Since Auston Matthews

Alexis Lafrenière is the best prospective first overall pick since Auston Matthews. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Profile

Alexis Lafrenière is an 18-year-old Canadian who’s listed as 6-foot-1, 193 pounds. The left-wing is a left-handed shot and has played his whole junior career in Canada and has done nothing but produce. His first season in the QMJHL was as a 16-year-old, so he has three years of CHL experience under his belt. In the final 2020 Draft Prospect Rankings, he ranked first, unsurprisingly, among North American skaters. 

The Statistics

Lafrenière started his junior hockey career in the Quebec Bantam AAA Hockey League. He played two seasons in this league, compiling a total of 88 points (47 goals, 41 assists) in 53 games; this point total is fourth-most in league history (2,738 total players). After this he played in one season in the Quebec Midget AAA Hockey League, tallying 83 points (33 goals, 50 assists) in only 36 games; this led the league by 15 points.

As mentioned, Lafrenière has spent the past three seasons in the QMJHL, all with the Rimouski Ocèanic. In his draft minus-two season, he was dominant, totaling 42 goals and 38 assists in only 60 games. As a 16-year-old, his 42 goals ranked sixth in the league and is the highest amount for a player in their draft minus-two season in league history. He made a dramatic jump in season two, compiling 105 points (37 goals, 68 assists), as well as 23 points in 13 playoffs games. The 105 points were third-most in the league. Extraordinary numbers for a player in their draft minus-one season. 

This season, he impressed again and cemented himself as the consensus first overall pick. In the QMJHL, he had 112 points (highest in the league) in only 52 games. He also lit up the 2020 World Junior Championships, as he was fourth in the tournament with 10 points in five games, named tournament MVP, and won the gold medal.

Lafrenière’s Scouting Report

Strengths

Lafrenière’s game is incredibly strong, so he has a laundry list of strengths. The one that shines the most is his playmaking abilities, specifically his rare ability to make anyone he’s on the ice with better, no matter their skill level. His vision is ridiculous, so he excels in finding the smartest of passing lanes. And the main reason for such high assist totals is his willingness to make successful passes into high danger areas. 

He also relies on a combination of swift skating and creativity to further generate chances for his teammates. Additionally, Lafrenière has a special way of deceiving opponents. He makes them think he is going to shoot when he is setting up a high danger pass or in a passing situation using his lethal shot to catch the netminder off guard.

He is not strictly a playmaker, which makes him even more dangerous. Interestingly enough, in his first season in the QMJHL, he seemed like more of a goal-scorer (42 goals in 60 games). However, he must’ve changed his mindset, as he racked up 68 then 77 assists in the following two seasons. His shot has everything it needs to be elite: accuracy, speed, and deception. 

A not-so-talked-about-enough aspect of his game is his strength and physicality. This is what stuck out to me watching the World Junior Championships this year. He does not shy away from trying and often successfully laying big hits and using his size and strength along the boards to win battles, as well as in shielding the puck. His puck control is top-notch for this reason.

Weaknesses

No surprises here, but the future first overall pick has no glaring weaknesses. If I had to choose one area to pick on, it’s his discipline. When the games not going his way, or he is struggling, he can be prone to taking “frustration” penalties. This is amplified especially since he is the best player in the league, so many try to aggravate him and take shots at him throughout the game. In return, this can lead to frustration and Lafrenière becoming a tad undisciplined. 

Projection

Alexis Lafrenière is going to be a star at the next level. He has all the tools to do so, and whoever is lucky enough to win the draft lottery is going to walk away with a tremendous talent. For comparison, he is the strongest first overall pick prospect since Auston Matthews. There is no doubt, Lafrenière will be called first come draft night. 

Fit With the New Jersey Devils

Originally, I did not believe it was a good idea to write a profile for Lafrenière, as some rumors made it seem that the Devils would not have been able to jump up to the first overall pick in a lottery. However, with the news on how the lottery will be conducted, there is a 7.5% chance the Devils win the first overall pick.

Now, if the Devils do somehow win the lottery, that would mark three first overall selections in the past four years. And, nothing against Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes, but as a prospect Lafrenière would be the best of the three at the time they were drafted. Pray to the hockey gods, as landing the Canadian left-wing would help put the Devils in a better spot than the team already is. 

James’ Top-30 Prospect Rankings

1. Alexis Lafrenière (06/09/2020)

2. Tim Stützle (05/07/2020)

3. Quinton Byfield (05/08/2020)

4. Marco Rossi (04/30/2020)

5. Lucas Raymond (04/28/2020)

6. Cole Perfetti (05/06/2020)

7. Jamie Drysdale (05/01/2020)

8. Alexander Holtz (04/29/2020)

9. Yaroslav Askarov (05/05/2020)

10. Anton Lundell (05/11/2020)

11. Seth Jarvis (05/13/2020)

12. Jake Sanderson (05/04/2020)

13. Dawson Mercer (05/16/2020)

14. Noah Gunler (05/19/2020)

15. Rodion Amirov (05/12/2020)

16. Jack Quinn (05/09/2020)

17. Kaiden Guhle (05/31/2020)

18. Braden Schneider (06/29/2020)

19. Ryan O’Rourke (07/01/2020)

20. Dylan Holloway (05/14/2020)

21. Connor Zary (05/15/2020)

22. Jacob Perreault (05/26/2020)

23. Maverik Bourque (05/20/2020)

24. Lukas Reichel (05/18/2020)

25. Brendan Brisson (07/18/2020)

26. Hendrix Lapierre (05/21/2020)

27. John-Jason Peterka (05/28/2020)

28. William Wallinder (05/23/2020)

29. Jan Mysak (06/02/2020)

30. Roni Hirvonen (06/05/2020)

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