NHL Prospect Profile: Alexis Lafrenière

Alexis Lafrenière is one of the top prospects eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft owing to his unrivalled on-ice vision and intelligence. Read Lafrenière’s prospect report to learn exactly what makes him such a dominant force.

– Alexis Lafrenière –

Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL) | Centre | 2020 NHL Draft Eligible

Saint-Eustache, Quebec | Oct. 11th, 2001 | 6-foot-1, 192-pounds

Alexis Lafrenière is arguably the most talented player eligible for selection in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft — an event scheduled to take place in Montreal, Quebec on June 26th. The location for the impending NHL Draft could not be more fitting for Lafrenière, as the youngster was born a one-hour’s drive from the home of the Canadiens — a reality which would make his potential selection at first overall especially sweet.

However, Lafrenière hasn’t simply stumbled to his standing atop the world of NHL prospects, as the youngster has long dominated his opposition with both consistency and authority. In fact, in his final season ahead of his selection in the QMJHL Draft, Lafrenière blasted home 33 goals and 83 points in a mere 36 games played — all of which coming against older competition at the Midget age level.

So, truthfully, Lafrenière’s absolute domination of the QMJHL over the past two seasons should come as no surprise. Owing to his smooth skating stride, unparalleled creativity, and decisive nature when in possession of the puck, Lafrenière has developed into a devastating offensive player who can take control of any given game at both ends of the ice. Sure, room for improvement exists within his game, yet the fact remains that Lafrenière holds the potential necessary to become a star player at the NHL-level in the immediate future.

Strengths:

  • Poise and Composure
  • Playmaking and On-Ice Vision
  • Offensive Creativity
  • Skating Strength and Puck Protection

Lafrenière has long been considered as the consensus first overall choice in the 2020 NHL Draft, and for good reason. In his first two seasons of play in the QMJHL following his first overall selection by the Rimouski Oceanic in the 2017 Entry Draft, Lafrenière tallied a total of 79 goals and 185 points in 121 regular season contests — a 1.52 point per game rate of production.

This outrageous level of production can be attributed directly to a number of Lafrenière’s seemingly endless strengths. The one facet of Lafrenière’s game which arguably shines the brightest is his remarkable composure when in possession of the puck. Not pressured into making mistakes and capable of protecting the puck with ease, Lafrenière assesses all of his options in a calm manor before regularly passing the puck to fellow teammates positioned in a deadly locations of the ice.

Related: NHL Draft — Canadian Player Profiles

The ability to create and implement high percentage scoring plays stands as the staple of Lafrenière’s game, as his ability to craft lethal opportunities not only leads to a wealth of team success but also improves the play of his fellow teammates in the process. So, it should come as no surprise to learn that Lafrenière garnered 106 assists in his first 121 games played in the QMJHL, his vision, creativity, and adaptability on the ice are simply that good.

The final strengths of many which are persistently present within Lafrenière’s game are his smooth skating stride, stability, and general strength when traversing the ice. Although his technical and playmaking abilities are otherworldly, Lafrenière’s skills on his skates stand as the foundation of his game. Capable of accelerating to top speed in a few short strides and able to fend off his opponents owing to his wide stance, Lafrenière can create time and space for himself to craft plays with relative ease and trumps his competition with his ability to do so.

Weaknesses:

  • Shooting Tendency

While creating plays and dishing the puck to his teammates is unquestionably Lafrenière’s greatest strength, his shot is equally intimidating and has the ability to beat opposing netminders owing to its accuracy and velocity. Unfortunately, Lafrenière doesn’t shoot the puck nearly as often as he should. Sure, the youngster tallied 37 goals in a mere 61 regular season games last season, however, many of which came in close proximity to the crease as opposed to from a distance.

 

At the NHL-level, loose pucks in and around the goal mouth are extremely difficult to come by, let alone available to pounce upon and deposit with regularity. So, if Lafrenière wishes to remain a goal scoring threat once he reaches hockey’s highest level, he’ll need to rely upon his shot with greater frequency — doing so will allow Lafrenière to stand as a persistently versatile threat in the attacking zone.

Future Potential:

At the NHL-level, expect Lafrenière to develop into nothing other than a dominant two-way centre capable of producing offensively in a variety of manners. Whether he be passing the puck to a teammate or whipping his shot on goal, Lafrenière will surely have little trouble adapting to hockey’s highest level owing to his composure, on-ice vision, and the confidence to create plays only dreamt of by most.

Although his first overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft is far from set in stone, Lafrenière’s glowing track record of offensive production and ability to flourish against stern competition on the international stage will do wonders for his draft stock in the eyes of scouts and management alike. As a player who is always willing to learn from his mistakes as well as from the direction of others, the sky truly is the limit for Lafrenière — the QMJHL’s latest superstar.

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2019 NHL Draft: Canada’s Top Early Performers

Although it’s only November, it’s time to check in on the best Canadian prospects eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. In this article, we analyze three players who have impressed this season from each CHL league and check in on the Canadian Jr. A circuit.

Canada has proven time and time again to be a developmental powerhouse in the hockey world.

Consistently pumping out a number of the NHL’s youngest elite players, Canada and the many leagues within it serve as a significant gateway for future stars regardless of their country of origin. And, in 2018-19, exactly such is once again the case — the three leagues which comprise the Canadian Hockey League are saturated with highly skilled talent while the Junior A circuit features a handful of dynamic players as well.

Now, although the 2018-19 season remains young, a slew of players have already begun to separate themselves from their competition. Through consistent and lethal play, these particular prospects — which you will meet below– have enjoyed sensational starts to their first campaigns of NHL Draft eligibility.

Western Hockey League

The Top-3 Early Performers:

  • Kirby Dach (Saskatoon Blades)

Standing 6-foot-4 and 200-pounds, Kirby Dach is an intimidating force who features an explosive offensive skill set. A tremendous passer with exceptional vision, Dach also boasts an improving shot and innate instincts — a combination which makes him a presence each and every shift.

To begin the 2018-19 campaign, Dach wasted little time applying his versatile skill set. In his first 22 games played with the Saskatoon Blades, Dach had recorded 12 goals and added 23 assists for an impressive total of 35 points — the most of any WHL draft eligible forward.

  • Peyton Krebs (Kootenay ICE)

Although his standing within various NHL Draft rankings has fluctuated, Peyton Krebs remains as a constant attacking force for the Kootenay ICE. Standing slightly less than 6-feet tall, Krebs is a workhorse for the ICE and a tireless puck hound. Agile and creative, Krebs can weave through opposing defences and carve his way to the goal while in possession of the puck.

Despite a slightly slow start, Krebs has ramped up his offensive game. Mid-way through the month of November, Krebs had earned himself 27 points alongside six goals. Although his plus/minus rating of -17 left plenty to be desired, Krebs could develop into a strong attacking forward similar to Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

  • Bowen Byram (Vancouver Giants)

Bowen Byram could very well be the best defenceman eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. Extremely mobile and confident, Byram can be utilized in a variety of situations and is a dominant force at even-strength.

At the half way point of the month of November, Byram had already collected six goals and 15 points alongside a respectable plus/minus rating of +3. As a driving force for the Giants, Byram has consistently displayed the ability to lead his team at both ends of the ice while logging major minutes in the process.

Honourable Mention:

  • Brett Leason (Prince Albert Raiders)

Although he is a 1999-born prospect, Brett Leason could be one of the most promising yet overlooked players available for the 2019 NHL Draft. With two average seasons of WHL play in-hand, Leason has exploded out of the gate to begin his 2018-19 season with 18 goals and 42 points in just 20 games played.

With great size given his 6-foot-4 frame and 205-pound weight, Leason could prove to be a hidden gem if drafted by an NHL franchise this coming June. Although he’ll surely need to develop within the professional ranks before being afforded a shot at the NHL-level, the native of Calgary, Alberta clearly boasts the skill-set of a legitimate NHL prospect.

Ontario Hockey League

The Top-3 Early Performers:

  • Arthur Kaliyev (Hamilton Bulldogs)

Not only is Arthur Kaliyev a smooth skating forward with a wicked shot, but he is also one of the most lethal offensive players in the OHL this season. As a natural goal-scorer, Kaliyev can beat goaltenders in a variety of ways but relies primarily on his heavy and devastating shot to do damage.

Kaliyev is a devastating offensive force who plays with remarkable consistency. (Photo Credit: Bandon Taylor)

With 17 goals and 32 points through his first 21 games played this season, Kaliyev has quickly established himself as a premier offensive player eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. Rocketing his way up respective draft rankings and showing no signs of slowing down, Kaliyev could be a hidden gem within this year’s class.

  • Ryan Suzuki (Barrie Colts)

As the first overall choice in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, it should come as no surprise to see Ryan Suzuki as a top performer early on this season. A dynamic playmaker who boasts terrific vision, Suzuki is a consistent threat who makes those around him better on a nightly basis.

Through his first 19 games played with the Colts this season, Suzuki had already accumulated 29 points — eight of which goals. If able to consistently dominate his opposition this season while further strengthening his defensive play, Suzuki could be chosen inside of the top-10 come the 2019 NHL Draft.

  • Thomas Harley (Mississauga Steelheads)

Although he began the 2018-19 OHL season as a relative unknown, Thomas Harley is quickly making a name for himself. A smooth and polished skater with oodles of confidence, Harley is becoming one of the OHL’s best puck-moving defenders despite his young age of just 17-years.

Harley is a smooth-skating defender of significant size who loves to contribute offensively. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Having recorded 18 points through his first 21 games this season, Harley is proving that he can play a responsible two-way game against his opponent’s top attacking lines. Although his defensive game remains a work in progress, there is simply far too much to like with regards to Harley’s game to go unmentioned.

Honourable Mention:

  • Matthew Struthers (North Bay Battalion)

Although he was first eligible to be chosen in the 2018 NHL Draft, Matthew Struthers’ lethal play this season could lead to his selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. Of solid size given his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame, Struthers is an intimidating force who has come to play a significant offensive role for the North Bay Battalion.

Having potted 12 goals and 27 points across his first 18 games played this season, Struthers has been remarkably consistent and endlessly potent. Playing alongside an incredibly dangerous teammate in Justin Brazeau, Struthers has become an offensive catalyst for the Battalion yet one capable of being utilized in a variety of situations. If able to maintain his current level of play, Struthers could very well be chosen in the upcoming NHL Draft.

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

The Top-3 Early Performers:

  • Nathan Legare (Baie-Comeau Drakkar)

Nathan Legare nearly topped his entire offensive output from his rookie season in October alone to begin the 2018-19 season. Blasting home 16 goals and 35 points in his first 23 games played this campaign, Legare has quickly cemented himself as a prospect to watch within the QMJHL this year.

Although long overlooked due to the presences of Jakob Pelletier and Raphael Lavoie, Legare has shed the shadow cast by his competition through competitive and consistent offensive play. A speedy and purposeful skater, Legare demands puck possession and has proven his ability to create lethal scoring chances in the blink of an eye.

  • Jakob Pelletier (Moncton Wildcats)

As the third-overall selection in the 2017 QMJHL Entry Draft, Jakob Pelletier has long been a prospect of immense potential. Fortunately for Pelletier, he is quickly living up to the expectations placed upon him — the Quebec City, Quebec native netted 11 goals and 30 points in his first 20 games played this season.

Incredibly quick, agile, and decisive, Pelletier is a tireless force who loves to attain both personal and team success. Not one to take a night off, Pelletier has come to drive Moncton’s offensive game and is now relied upon by his coaches and teammates to do exactly such. Although somewhat undersized, the punch which Pelletier packs in unquestionable.

  • Raphael Lavoie (Halifax Mooseheads)

In addition to Dach, Raphael Lavoie could be one of the 2019 NHL Draft class’ best power forwards. Standing 6-foot-4 and 200-pounds, Lavoie is an intimidating threat who also plays a consistent offensive game. In fact, Lavoie recorded 12 goals and 22 points through his first 20 games played this season.

What separates Lavoie from most power forwards, however, is his long yet smooth and efficient stride. Despite his lanky frame, Lavoie is a fantastic skater with breakaway speed and the agility necessary to operate deep within the offensive zone. As a late 2000 birth date, Lavoie is one of the oldest yet most NHL ready players eligible for the upcoming NHL Draft.

Canadian Jr. A

The Top-3 Early Performers:

  • Alex Newhook (Victoria Grizzlies)

Long the primary player to watch within the Canadian Jr. A circuit this season, Alex Newhook has wasted little time in establishing himself as a top NHL prospect early on this season. Skating in his second campaign with the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL, Newhook has already netted 12 goals and a whopping 36 points in his first 24 games played.

Committed to Boston College for the 2019-20 season, Newhook is an explosive and extremely dynamic forward capable of driving his team’s offensive game. As a fluid skater of ample speed and agility, Newhook is endlessly crafty and is most lethal when the puck is on his stick.

  • Harrison Blaisdell (Chilliwack Chiefs)

A second year player with the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL, Harrison Blaisdell is quietly piecing together a strong sophomore season. Committed to the University of North Dakota for the 2020-21 campaign, Blaisdell has been a model of consistency thus far in 2018-19 — recording 15 goals and 27 points across his first 25 games played.

Although of a slightly smaller stature, Blaisdell has become a lethal offensive force for the Chiefs. As a versatile offensive player, Blaisdell can move the puck to his teammates with relative ease or uncork a crisp and accurate shot on goal.

  • Eric Ciccolini (Toronto Jr. Canadiens)

The Toronto Jr. Canadiens are off to a hot start to begin their 2018-19 OJHL season, however, said success would not have been possible without the play of Eric Ciccolini. Headed to Colgate University for the 2020-21 season, Ciccolini has quickly become a devastating attacker for his team.

Having collected 14 goals and 36 points through his team’s first 24 games, Ciccolini led the Jr. Canadiens with absolute authority. As a solid skater with exceptional puck-handling abilities, Ciccolini is a creative skater who can generate quality scoring opportunities off of the rush or via the cycle game.

NHL Prospect Profile: Maxim Cajkovic

Maim Cajkovic is a magician with the puck who can bury pucks with ease and makes defencemen and goaltenders alike look silly on a regular basis with his eye-catching moves. Cajkovic is a likely first round pick for the 2019 NHL Draft.

– Maxim Cajkovic –

Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL) | Right Wing | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Bratislava, Slovakia | January 3, 2001 | 5-foot-11, 187-pounds

Maxim Cajkovic is a magician with the puck who can score goals in a multitude of ways. He really made a name for himself at the 2018 IIHF U18 Championships, where he led the tournament in points-per-game with 11 in just five games. In Sweden, Cajkovic added 14 goals in just 10 games with the Malmö Redhawks at the J18 Elit level, as well as 10 goals and 21 points in 28 SuperElit games, Sweden’s top U20 league.

As a result of his impressive totals during ’17-18, Cajkovic was selected 1st overall by the Saint John Sea Dogs at the 2018 CHL Import Draft. Cajkovic will be able to earn plenty of exposure by playing in the QMJHL during his draft eligible season, much like Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina did by coming to the CHL via the Import Draft last year.

Strengths:

  • Shot
  • Puck Skills
  • Hockey Sense

Maxim Cajkovic is an enticing winger with supreme skills. He has the ability to put the game in his hands through dynamic offensive abilities. Cajkovic plays with a shoot-first mentality and possesses a tremendous release with precision accuracy. He often changes shooting angles on the goaltender right before firing a strong wrist shot which can beat the keeper clean.

Cajkovic also boasts a pair of mesmerizing hands which can make defencemen look foolish on a regular basis. He is a very creative player who utilizes his hockey sense and vision of developing plays to sift through traffic with ease. His speed also remains above average, but not yet at a game-breaking level.

Weaknesses:

  • Defensive Awareness

On the other end of the ice, Cajkovic could use some small improvements. He doesn’t necessarily put his team at risk, but he is rather average in the defensive zone. If his compete level away from the puck was as strong as it was with the puck, he would likely earn praise as a 200-foot player.

As he heads to Saint John for the ’18-19 campaign, there is no doubt that head coach, Josh Dixon, and his bench staff will be hard at work with their prized import to ensure that he will never be a liability to the Sea Dogs in their own end.

Future Potential:

Maxim Cajkovic projects to be a top-six winger at the NHL level. He is a natural goal-scorer with dynamic hands in tight, as well as promising playmaking abilities. Cajkovic has the potential to be an effective, offence generating player who should earn time on the power play as well. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Cajkovic looks like a first round pick for the 2019 NHL Draft, likely in the 20-30th overall range for the time being.

NHL Prospect Profile: Jakob Pelletier

Jakob Pelletier led all 2019 NHL Draft eligible prospects from the QMJHL in goals and points in ’17-18, with 23 and 61, respectively. A smart, natural playmaker, Pelletier looks like a lock as a first round pick.

– Jakob Pelletier –

Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) | Center | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Québec, Canada | March 7, 2001 | 5-foot-9, 161-pounds

Jakob Pelletier, a third overall pick of the 2017 QMJHL Draft by Moncton, quietly had a superb rookie campaign in 2017-18. Overshadowed by the hype surrounding Alexis Lafrenière,  Pelletier racked up 23 goals and 61 points over 60 games, ranking third on the Wildcats in both categories. Pelletier also led all QMJHL 2019 NHL Draft prospects in those areas by a fairly wide margin.

Pelletier is a pass-first, two-way center with an elite hockey IQ and understanding of the game around him. He has above average speed and admirable agility with the puck. Pelletier’s rookie performance and overall improvements were rewarded with an invitation to the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with Team Canada, where he captured a gold medal.

Strengths:

  • Hockey Sense
  • Skating
  • Two-Way Play

Jakob Pelletier can often outthink his opponents, through his tremendous vision of the ice to his ability to read and react to developing situations. He understands the significance of a strong two-way game and showcases natural leadership trait on and off the ice. Pelletier is the kind of player that coaches trust to put out in any situation.

He is an excellent skater with impressive speed and good lower-body strength to protect the puck. Pelletier is agile with possession of the puck, allowing him to weave and dangle through defencemen. A playmaker by nature, Pelletier also has promising goal-scoring abilities, with a quick release and good hands in tight.

Weaknesses:

  • Size and Strength

Standing at a humbling 5-foot-9, 161-pounds, Pelletier is by no means a large center. While this fact doesn’t hold him back by any means within his own age group, older and larger opponents can sometimes outmuscle and knock Pelletier off the puck. Although he is a strong skater with a good lower-body, he would benefit from adding some size in order to maximize his defensive prowess.

Jakob Pelletier led all U17 QMJHL players in both goals and points. He will quickly be leaned upon as a top producer for Moncton in 2018-19. Photo Credit – Daniel St. Louis

While Pelletier will never be a power forward, some added strength would go a long way to improving his overall game. Aside from the physical side of the game, it would also make his shot more powerful and electric, which would also aid Pelletier to prosper at the next level.

Future Potential:

Jakob Pelletier projects to be a top-six center at the NHL level. He is a smart player with strong skating abilities and a responsible two-way game that his coaches have trust in at all levels. Pelletier plays a comparable style to that of Travis Konecny of the Philadelphia Flyers. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Pelletier forecasts as a first round pick for the 2019 NHL Draft, likely in the 20-30th overall range.

NHL Prospect Profile: Raphaël Lavoie

Raphaël Lavoie is a fan-favourite power forward who gives his all each shift. He’s got a knack for scoring goals, both dirty and highlight-reel worthy. Add in a massive frame and you get a projected 1st round pick.

– Raphaël Lavoie –

Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) | Center/Right Wing | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Montréal, Québec, Canada | September 25, 2000 | 6-foot-4, 192-pounds

Raphaël Lavoie is a gifted power forward in the making with an elite level goal-scoring ability. Not only does he have sniper’s instincts, but he is also tough to stop in front of the net with the ability to deflect pucks and hunt for rebounds. As a late 2000-born prospect, Lavoie racked up 30 goals and 63 points for the Mooseheads in ’17-18, leading all 2019 NHL Draft eligible players in those categories in the QMJHL.

Lavoie is also an impressive skater for a player of his size, featuring strong edgework and a quick first three steps, he has the ability to blow by defenders on the rush. He left a lasting impression at the 2018 IIHF U18 Championships, chipping in five goals in five games for Team Canada.

Strengths:

  • Shot
  • Net-Front Skill
  • Size and Strength

Lavoie possesses all the major skills to be a menacing power forward at the NHL level. His shot is powerful and accurate, with a lightning quick release that he can get off in tight spaces. He can also score the dirty goals as well, often positioning himself in front of the net for screens, deflections, and rebounds.

Raphaël Lavoie is a force to be reckoned with, and should find increased success with the 2019 Memorial Cup host, Halifax Mooseheads in 2018-19. Photo credit – David Chan

With his size and strength, Lavoie is extremely tough for defenders to move from the net-front, and even tougher to face when he is flying down on the rush. He uses his frame well to protect the puck and brush off checks, often bullying his way into dangerous scoring areas.

Weaknesses:

  • Defensive Awareness

Lavoie is an offence-first player, no doubt about it. As such, his defensive awareness is often criticized for being below average. As a winger, he can often get away with protecting his point, but when lining up as a center, he often neglects his defensive duties to protect the front of his net.

Lavoie’s scoring abilities are hard to pass up, but if he is able to include reliable defensive positioning and backchecks, he would make himself an impossible to miss prospect. Until then, it’s likely that NHL scouts will see Lavoie as a future winger in the league instead.

Future Potential:

Raphaël Lavoie looks to be a future top-six winger at the NHL level. While his offensive abilities are tantalizing, he has yet to show a maturity to play the defensive role that comes with playing center. Comparables include Blake Wheeler and Logan Couture. Heading into his NHL Draft eligible season, Lavoie projects to be a Top-15 pick at the 2019 NHL Draft.