After an unprecedented result in the Draft Lottery on Friday, the Vancouver Canucks actually have a 12.5 percent chance of drafting first overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. That is if they end up losing to the Minnesota Wild in the upcoming play-in round. Now no one wants their team to lose, but that shouldn’t stop us from dreaming of a world with generational talent and consensus first overall pick Alexis Lafrenière in the lineup.
What Lafrenière Brings to the Canucks Lineup
There’s not much Lafrenière can’t bring to the Canucks lineup. He has almost everything from speed and power to finesse and silky smooth hands. Bottom line is, he will be a superstar in the NHL. If you don’t believe me, just open up YouTube and watch the plethora of highlight reels out there.
Related: FREE 2020 NHL Draft Guide
Lafrenière dominated the QMJHL this year with Sidney Crosby’s former junior team, the Rimouski Oceanic generating an eye-popping 35 goals and 112 points in 52 games. He also made a name for himself internationally with Team Canada at the 2020 World Junior Championship, producing 4 goals and 10 points in only five games en route to a gold medal finish. Oh yes, he also won the World Juniors MVP award at 18-years-old.
Lafrenière was a prospect to watch even before the QMJHL as he skated circles around his peers in Midget AAA breaking several records en route to a first overall selection in the QMJHL Draft. Since his first game with the Oceanic, he has produced an insane 114 goals and 297 points in 173 games. With the package he brings to the NHL, it’s hard to imagine a world where he doesn’t produce at the highest level. At his peak, he has the chance to become a perennial 100-point player in the vein of another generational talent in Crosby.
Lafrenière truly is an all-round, elite player with an offensive gift. The offense runs through him. He can cycle the offensive end on his own, finding the perfect pass for an assist or the best positioning for a shot. His offensive awareness is off the charts. He reads defences so well that when you watch him play it looks like he visualizes the path to the net and he takes it.Josh Bell, The Hockey Writers
That says it all on what he would bring to the team. Simply put, he would be another superstar and potential Calder Trophy candidate, the fourth straight for the Canucks joining Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Quinn Hughes before him.
If Lafrenière actually joined the Canucks lineup he would instantly make them a force to be reckoned with. Imagine a roster with him and Pettersson as the top two pivots. Let’s let that sink in for a minute. Now add Hughes, Nils Hoglander, and Vasili Podkolzin to the mix. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a recipe for a lot of excitement and a multitude of jaw-dropping moments in the future.
Dream Line Combinations With Lafrenière
If the dream came true, the sky’s the limit on what Lafrenière could do with the players the Canucks currently have. Let’s take a look at three of them, and let our imagination run wild.
Option 1 – Lafrenière, Miller, Pettersson
The Canucks had the Lotto Line with Pettersson, Boeser, and JT Miller, now they could get something potentially even better with Lafrenière added to the mix. He’s got playmaking, hands and hockey IQ for days, so when you add a talent like him to Pettersson’s toolbox, something special is bound to happen. Teams wouldn’t know who to cover as both can beat defenders in a number of ways from passing, shooting, and dancing players one-on-one. I think Pettersson would be pretty excited to have Lafrenière flanking him on the top line, as the focus would be less on him. We all know what happens when he is given just an inch of ice out there.
Along with the size, skill, and faceoff abilities of Miller, this line could potentially have the puck for most of the game. The hockey IQ with this trio is also off the charts, so the possibilities would be endless when it comes to the potential highlights they could produce.
Option 2 – Lafrenière, Horvat, Toffoli
This combination assumes the Canucks find a way to re-sign pending unrestricted free agent Tyler Toffoli, but that shouldn’t stop us from adding to the dream. Lafrenière is an elite passer who can find seams no one else can, so having an accomplished scorer like Toffoli on his line would be ideal. Not to mention he is also gritty along the boards and an excellent puck retriever. Horvat adds faceoff abilities and size to make this a potentially elite two-way unit.
Option 3 – Lafrenière, Gaudette, Boeser
Not many people may like this, as the talented Lafrenière is placed on the third line. Though I’m not sure you could call this a traditional third unit as it has all the potential in the world to become one of the best bottom-six units in the NHL. Adam Gaudette has already shown the ability to produce offence with 12 goals and 33 points in his first full season in the league and we all know what Boeser can do with two seasons of 25 goals or more under his belt. Add the playmaking and offensive prowess of Lafrenière, and teams would not know what hit them. Don’t forget, they would be getting the third pairing defenders and the other team’s bottom-six players as well.
Those are just three combinations in a whole world of options with a potential superstar in Lafrenière joining the roster. I will leave you with those as we move on to the ideal first unit power play with him in the lineup.
Canucks Dream Continues: First Unit Power Play
The Canucks power play got significantly stronger in 2019-20 with quarterback Quinn Hughes joining the first unit. Now imagine 2020-21 with Lafrenière…[table id=344 /]
In this scenario, I have Lafrenière manning the point on the power play with Hughes. Although he usually runs the man advantage from the half wall with the Oceanic, he could conceivably still move there as it sets up. With the two one-timers on each side and the insane playmaking of both Lafrenière and Pettersson, this unit could score a lot of goals.
Lafrenière only scored five power play goals this past season, but that doesn’t mean he can’t produce there. He is more of a pass-first type player, so most of his points come from assists. He also has a wicked shot from the left circle. Although, as Kyle Pereira from Puck Prose suggests, he may be poorly utilized on the half wall at the high point position.
I think he is misused on the power play. As mentioned earlier, Lafrenière loves getting in front of the opposing goalie and setting a screen, using his big frame. Why isn’t he placed in the same role on the powerplay though? With his skill, big frame and physical abilities, he is best suited for the net-front role.
In that case, on this unit, he could play the role of Miller and be the bumper forward hanging out in front of the net. That would leave Miller or Boeser to set up shop at the point. Whatever the case may be, quarterback Quinn Hughes will have plenty of options at his disposal.
Dream Lineup With Lafrenière
This lineup assumes Toffoli is re-signed and the Canucks were able to rid themselves of the contracts of Brandon Sutter and Loui Eriksson. Well, this is a dream lineup, right?[table id=343 /]
In this alignment, they have a formidable top-six with two proven goal scorers flanking Horvat and a potentially lethal top line with the addition of Lafrenière to the elite duo of Pettersson and Miller.
The third line is a mix of great forechecking, speed and goal-scoring potential with breakout stars Gaudette and Jake Virtanen joining forces with veteran winger and 21-goal man Tanner Pearson. Finally, the fourth line is the traditional grind line with workhorse Tyler Motte, veteran centerman Jay Beagle, and the buzz saw that is Antoine Roussel. Now if this lineup doesn’t get you excited for the future of the Canucks, nothing else will.
The Dream Could Become a Reality
This may all turn out to be another dream that doesn’t come true, but it’s still fun to speculate and think about a parallel universe where this does happen. Adding Lafrenière to a lineup that already includes Hughes, Pettersson, Boeser, and Horvat with the future additions of prospects Hoglander and Podkolzin would make the Canucks one of the best young teams in the NHL. Even without him, they are already one of the top teams to watch over the next decade. All I have to say is, dare to dream Canucks fans, dare to dream.
My name is Matthew and I cover the Vancouver Canucks, and Vancouver Giants here at the Hockey Writers. I am also the head of the prospects and NHL Draft coverage. In addition to writing, I host the Canucks & Pucks podcast as well. I am passionate about the Canucks, prospects, and all things hockey.