Know The Name: Alexis Lafrenière

Our "Know The Name" series is going to serve a slightly different purpose this year than the last. Instead of only profiling underrated players as part of the series, this will now serve as a series profiling all draft eligible players for both the upcoming draft and drafts further in the future. We will be using a mixture of eye test, supplied by various streaming services and shift by shift videos, along with basic and advanced stats, supplied by Eliteprospects and Mitch Brown.

First off in the series is none other than the consensus first overall pick, Alexis Lafrenière.

Lafrenière is seen as possibly the greatest talent to come to the draft since Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby, and it's not impossible to see why. While some of the assumptions and predictions are overstated, he is certainly a future franchise changing player, and here's why:

Scouting Report:

Let's start with the best part of Lafrenière's game, his passing and playmaking abilities. If you've watched Lafrenière play before, you've surely been in awe at his ability to find teammates all over the ice multiple times per game. His ability to make passes that don't even seem to be options is a very good characteristic to possess. But simple passing isn't the extent of it for the young forward. His ability to set up his teammates for scoring chances with his terrific passes are what impresses me even more.
In this clip, he makes his way down the right side of the ice and looks to his left twice, evaluating the bodies around him and finding his lane, before firing a backhand pass between FOUR skaters seemingly effortlessly. Being such a high caliber player, Lafrenière draws lots of attention to himself with the puck. He likes to skate around and draw two or three players towards him and hold onto it as long as he possibly can to open up at least one other skater and fire the pass off to them for high danger chances. What's also impressive is his vision in the offensive zone. At first, I thought he was just getting away with some fluke passes that squeezed through a players legs or just went under a skate blade, but as I watched more, I noticed that almost every single one of these passes he attempts make it to the intended receiver:




Another very good part of Lafrenière's game is his shooting ability, displayed here:
As we can see, he uses a curl and drag on his shot, pulling it towards his body with the puck on the toe before releasing it. This is a very good way to get a powerful shot off without a huge windup if done properly, which he certainly does. He has the power and the release necessary to be a great goal scorer in the NHL, but the one criticism I have is he doesn't use his shot enough. He also tends to shoot from somewhat low-danger scoring areas more often than he should. That isn't to say he doesn't get good opportunities, though. He's still good at finding soft spots around the slot and the faceoff dots where the puck can come to him for shots.


The next part of his game that I find to be extremely developed is his smarts. He knows where to be on the ice without the puck in the offensive zone, and he always supports the play in good position when transitioning from defense to offense. His processing speed is also incredible. He seems to always know what his next move is before he even picks up the puck, making him able to execute the plays he wants with less pressure. This is most evident when it comes to his ability to find lanes for teammates, especially on the powerplay.
Accepting a pass down the boards, Lafrenière instantly pushes the puck forward just enough to evade the pressure of the first defender, while also doing it fast enough for it to be out of reach of the second defender on the left side. The time between the puck first touching and leaving his stick was just about half a second. Only 5 seconds later, his IQ is showing again:
Right as it looks like a shot is coming, he slows it down and waits for the sliding defender to be out of the way. The result is a very high percentage shot that just goes off the toe of the netminder. Lafrenière's combination of quick decision making along with a high patience level make him a player never under duress on the ice in any situation, and one incredibly difficult to take the puck from.
Lafrenière also knows how to add a level of deceptiveness to his game to catch defenders and even goalies off guard, which creates an even bigger nightmare for the opposition:
 A high level play at the NHL level on the power play like this often involves faking a shot and passing off at the last second. What we see here is a fake pass across the ice that turns into a pass 90 degrees to his right tape to tape. The goalies positioning says it all, as he was sliding across to the right to save a possible one timer.


We know move on to the only huge part of Lafrenière's game that isn't at a very high level, and that would be his skating. Now, there are obviously lots of different parts that go into making a good skater, and some of them are present in his game. For example, I believe his foot speed is great, but is currently not appreciated enough due to the fact that he can't get enough power to really seperate himself from an opposing player, and this is what is considered straight line speed. When you ask someone about a player's skating, it's normally "he's fast" or "really slow", and this is most evident when a player is racing for a puck at full speed. So, while the straight line speed isn't yet good enough for a player his caliber, there are things to like about his skating abilities. With the quick feet and strong edgework he possesses, he has the ability to move fairly quick in tight spaces. If he can improve his stride (less hunch in his back, longer pushes in his legs) and adds power to his legs, he can become a good skater, because certain aspects are already there for him. And, it's safe to assume he will do so because we already saw improvements throughout the 2018-19 season:
In the first clip, from a game in late September, we see a very short and choppy stride along with shoulders far past the knees, signaling a back too hunched over. The defender easily cuts off his angle and while he still got a chance, there was traffic around him. In the second clip, from a playoff game in April, we can see a longer stride, along with a bit more power in the legs. This lets him win a pretty even foot race to the slot where he then protects the puck from the defender extremely well and gets rewarded. Lafrenière certainly improved his overall top speed throughout the season, and I'm excited to see what an entire summer will do for his skating abilities.


One part of Lafrenière's game we don't see a ton of is the use of big dekes. That said, he still is able to do it when he wants or needs to. Instead of between the leg moves or massive toe drags, Lafrenière uses his quick hands to reposition the puck to get a better look on his passes, and at times open up a bit more space with a timely pull back or changing the side he holds the puck on. While he has the ability to pull off dekes at high speeds, his game doesn't revolve around doing so very often.


Last but not least is the defensive aspect. Lafrenière shows some promise on defense at times, but also looks out of place often. There are shifts where we see him placing himself in the high danger passing lanes and making smart reads on what his man may do next. However, he also tends to puck watch and lose his man sometimes, resulting in chances against. This may be a result of below average acceleration, but he also gives up on short puck races to the boards or the corner sometimes, which also results in scoring chances against.


Statistical Analysis:

Alexis Lafrenière tore up the QMJHL this year. In 61 Games, he scored 37 times and added 68 assists for a total of 105 points, good for a point per game of 1.72. He is second to Sidney Crosby for D-1 points among all QMJHL players, obviously a very impressive thing to accomplish. Jimmy Huntington, his linemate, finished with 92 points, which was 34 more than his previous career high. After him, Lafrenière was 39 points ahead of the next best point getter on the team, having more assists than anyone else did points. He saw an improvement of 25 points between his rookie year and last year, however he scored 5 less goals. He adopted a lesser shooting role and added 30 assists, showing his versatility. He also added 9 goals and 14 assists in 13 games in the playoffs for Rimouski.

This season, Lafrenière finished T-1st (in 5 less GP) in points among all U-20 players, as a U-18 player. He was also first in assists among all U-20 players, and the only player who beat him in points and assists in the entire league, age aside, was Peter Abbandonato.

Thanks to the terrific work of Mitch Brown, who can be found here, we also had some insight on lots of advanced stats for Lafrenière last season.

First off, we know that he played over 20 minutes per game at 5v5 last season, a very very high number for an 18 year old. In those minutes, he managed a 56.5% CF, which is already a high enough number, but what's even more impressive is his 5.4% Rel CF, meaning with him on the ice their possession increased by over 5%, compared to with him off the ice.

Earlier, I said he takes too many low quality shots, and this is supported by the data found by Mitch. Of his 13.2 Shots/60, more than half (6.9) were low quality. While he still manages 3.5 high quality shots per 60, he should focus on taking less low quality shots. He still ranks in the 96th percentile for Dangerous Shots/60, and in the 72nd percentile or higher for both Expected Goals and High Danger shots per 60 minutes.

While I don't believe his 53rd percentile for expected primary assists does him justice, he ranks in the 88th percentile for primary shot assists, which shows his playmaking. The stats also support the fact that he excels at bringing the puck into the offensive zone with possession, finishing in the 97th percentile in relative controlled entries, and 87th percentile in controlled entries per 60.


Conclusion:

Alexis Lafrenière is a treat to watch. Next season, we can expect more of the same along with better skating abilities, and that new balance could very well make him a player that puts up over 2 points per game. As it stands, I feel as though he is the stand alone 1st overall pick and that whoever drafts him gets a future franchise altering winger on their club. While he isn't McDavid or Crosby, Lafrenière is in his own way one of the best prospects the NHL has seen in years.

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