You’ve heard the name, you’ve likely seen highlights, and you may have been getting very excited at the possibility of your team drafting him in the 2020 NHL Draft. His name is Alexis Lafrenière. On top of his dominant skill, he’s entering this draft with one of the best draft resumes – ever.
Related: 2020 NHL Draft Guide
There’s very little question at this point that the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and Rimouski Océanic star will be the first player to hear his name called when the draft finally happens. He has the skill, he has the experience, and if you take a look at his accolades up to this point, what this young man has done up to this point is truly remarkable.
And that’s not just from the last couple of years. Lafrenière has been good for a long, long time. Let’s take a look back at this young player’s career, starting back to before his time in the QMJHL, just to prove this point.
2015 to 2017: Lafrenière Prior to the QMJHL
Back to Lafrenière’s time before the Q, the Saint-Eustache, Quebec native was tearing up AAA hockey. In 2015-16, the future star was playing for the Mille-Îles Seigneurs Bantam AAA team. In 26 games, he racked up 35 goals, 34 assists, and 69 points. He led the league in every single one of those statistics, leading his team to the league championship. He was 14 years old at this time and even got the call up to the Midget AA team for two games (with no points).
In 2016-17, the left winger spent the season with the Saint-Eustache Vikings, the Midget AAA team. Moving up to the next level, he got even better. In 36 games, he collected 33 goals, 50 assists, and 83 points, adding five points (one goal, four assists) in five playoff games. Again, he led the league in goals, points, and assists. He was named the league’s Most Valuable Player, was named to the First All-Star Team, and was awarded the Prospect Award.
His efforts over these seasons earned him the honour of hearing his name called first overall in the 2017 QMJHL Entry Draft, to – as you know – the Océanic. The accolades were already impressive for the young player at this point – but he was just getting started.
2017-18: Lafrenière’s QMJHL Rookie Season
For anyone who wasn’t sold on Lafrenière coming into this season, his rookie campaign changed that. The Q freshman was on a mission, playing 60 games, and putting up an impressive 42 goals, 38 assists, and 80 points. Those goal and point totals led his team, his 42 goals put him sixth in the league, and his 80 points put him ninth.
For his impressive efforts, he was named to the QMJHL’s All-Rookie Team. He won some personal hardware too, as he was honoured as both the Offensive Rookie of the Year and the Rookie of the Year. He wasn’t done there though, earning a spot on the First All-Star Team and earning Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Rookie of the Year Honours.
This season also marked the first and second time that Lafrenière suited up for Team Canada. But before that, he participated in the World Under-17 Development Camp where he and Team Green won the tournament. Lafrenière had no points in three games.
But then came the actual World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. He dressed for Canada Red (Canada sends three teams to the tournament: Red, White, and Black) and potted three goals and three assists in six games. Being a 2001-born player, Lafrenière faced off against many 2019 NHL Draftees, including the best American junior team ever, led by Jack Hughes, Cole Caufield, and Matthew Boldy who were 1-2-3, respectively, in points in the tournament.
The Americans defeated Lafrenière’s Canadian team in the gold medal game to send the 2020 top prospect home with a silver medal, but not before he was also named to the All-Star Team (this happens a lot for Lafrenière). While he and Canada didn’t win a gold medal, he impressed Hockey Canada’s brass enough to earn a spot on Team Canada again for the World Under-18 Championship.
So the 16-year-old Lafrenière donned the Maple Leaf again this season and was a leader on the squad. He led Team Canada with six points (four goals, two assists), finishing 15th in the entire tournament. Once again, he saw Hughes come away with the scoring title, but it was Kappo Kaako and Team Finland to come away with the gold medal – Canada finished sixth.
2018-19: The Sophomore Campaign
After his impressive rookie season – highlighted by a couple of international tournaments – more and more people were taking notice of the prospect likely to be the top pick int he 2020 NHL Draft. This season started early for Lafrenière, captaining Team Canada at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. The Hlinka is an under-18 tournament and Lafrenière was still 16 at the time.
The young captain led the team and the tournament in points with 11 (five goals, six assists) – albeit tied with soon-to-be Vancouver Canucks prospect Vasili Podkolzin of Team Russia. The two players tied the all-time record for points in the tournament – which was then broken in 2019 by 2020 NHL Draft prospect Cole Perfetti, but I digress.
Lafrenière led Canada to the championship game, potting two goals (including the game-winner) and an assist in a 6-2, gold medal-winning performance. Starting the season, Lafrenière was already looking very good.
Coming back to Rimouski, he picked up right where he left off at the Hlinka. He was given the “A” in his second campaign in the Q but played like a captain. He had a dominant season, collecting 37 goals (14th in the league), 68 assists (second in the league), and 105 points (tied for second in the league.
Once again he was named to the QMJHL First All-Star Team, but this time his hardware took a step up. He was named the league’s Most Valuable Player, the Personality of the Year, and went on to win the CHL Player of the Year. He also played in the Canada-Russia Series, going pointless in the two games for the QMJHL All-Stars as they dropped both games against Team Russia.
Arguably his biggest highlight of the year though – if not the CHL Player of the Year honours, was dressing for Team Canada at the 2019 World Junior Hockey Championship. An under-20 championship, 17-year-old Lafrenière was the youngest on the team to dress in a game, which is particularly impressive from a country loaded with hockey talent. He played five games in a depth role, collecting one goal in five games. Canada lost in the Quarterfinal – but Lafrenière gained valuable experience in the tournament.
2019-20: Lafrenière’s Draft Year
Ah, the draft year. It ended up being cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Lafrenière blossomed into one of the best hockey players in the world not in the NHL – and definitely in junior hockey.
He didn’t play in the Hlinka in the 2019 summer, instead joining the under-20 group in the World Junior Summer Showcase. In two games, he collected two assists en route to a Canadian second-place finish. Then, it was back home to Rimouski to play what was very likely his last season in the QMJHL.
And what a season it was. To start, the young player was named captain of the team. The dominance was evident all season, putting up 35 goals and 77 assists for a massive 112 points in 52 games. His assist total led the QMJHL, and his points earned him the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the top total in the league.
But that was just the start of his hardware this season. Lafrenière earned the QMJHL’s Best Professional Prospect, and for the second year in a row, he was named Personality of the Year and the Most Valuable Player. He became just the second player to win both of those awards twice. The other player? Sidney Crosby.
He was also named to the QMJHL’s First All-Star Team for the third time, becoming the first player to ever be named to the First Team three times. Yes, not even Crosby was named to the team three times, “only” receiving the honour twice.
Yet still, Lafrenière wasn’t done. He was named the CHL Player of the Year – becoming once again just the second player after Crosby to win it – and the CHL Top Draft Prospect Award. He was also the runner-up for CHL’s top scorer, finishing behind the OHL’s Marco Rossi (120 points).
If this was it, you’d already be impressed, right? But this isn’t it. There’s one more critical tournament that gives the forward one of the best NHL Draft resumes in recent history: the 2020 World Junior Championship. Returning to play with Team Canada for the second time in the tournament, Lafrenière knew what was expected of him, of the team, and what to expect in the competition.
He exploded in this tournament, putting up 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games. He did miss two games in the tournament with an injury but was able to come back and help Canada capture the gold medal. Those two games likely cost him leading the tournament in points, finishing three points behind Sweden’s Samuel Fagemo. But he did lead the tournament by averaging two points per game.
Lafrenière played a massive 23:52 in the gold medal game and assisted on Canada’s first goal of the game (which tied it at one) and their third goal (which tied it at three with less than 10 minutes in the game). For his remarkable performance, he was named to the All-Star Team, a Top Three Player on Team Canada, the Best Forward in the Tournament, and the Most Valuable Player.
If he could win it, he won it. Putting his skill, his dominance, and his passion on international display. If there was any question about whether or not Lafrenière would be drafted first overall in the NHL Draft, his draft year silenced those questions in a big way.
Lafrenière: Best Draft Resume Since McDavid? Crosby?
Lafrenière’s resume heading into the draft is something not seen often by players his age. He joins Crosby as the only player to win two CHL Player of the Year Awards. Even looking within the CHL’s leagues, Connor McDavid only won the OHL MVP once and the First All-Star team once.
The World Juniors MVP really sets him apart. He became the first draft-eligible player to win the award since Jesse Puljujärvi in 2016. Since the award was first given out in 2002, they are two of only four players to win the award in their draft year. The others are Marc-Andre Fleury (2003) and John Tavares (2009).
The soon-to-be NHLer is heading into the draft with one of the best pre-draft careers in a very long time. It’s almost scary to think that he’s still just 18 years old and just getting his career started.
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Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.