If a song comes on the radio and he knows the tune, the rookie left wing, who was selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, is going to belt it out. Just ask his roommate, Rangers rookie defenseman K’Andre Miller, who hears it in the two-bedroom suburban apartment they share, during the short car rides they take together to and from the practice rink, and the much longer ones to and from Madison Square Garden. Fair enough, but knowing what we know now about Lafreniere, it should come as no surprise that the 19-year-old is starting to find his voice in the Rangers locker room while also discovering his game on the ice.
The difference between Lafreniere at the start of the season Canada custom patch maker in January compared to now is striking in how much more comfortable he appears, just how much more willing he is to engage physically and how much more of a factor he’s for the Rangers (25-18-6), who are four points behind the Boston Bruins for fourth place in the MassMutual East Division. The top four teams will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Lafreniere, who has scored 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 49 games, hasn’t yet come close to meeting the lofty expectations that accompanied him into the NHL, which included some analysts believing he would be a point-per-game player right away.
But New York never put those expectations on him, instead placing him in positions where he could succeed, including a top-nine role all season, and, in the past three games, on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. Lafreniere has also recently found himself back on the second power-play unit.