Prospects News & Rumors: Lafrenière, Dellandrea & the WHL

New York Rangers’ first overall pick Alexis Lafrenière recorded his first NHL goal in style, winning the game in overtime last night. Dallas Stars prospect Ty Dellandrea registered his first NHL goal in the Dallas Stars 7-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. The Western Hockey League has received approval to return to play in Alberta.

Lafrenière’s First NHL Goal is an OT Winner

The first overall selection in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft finally got off the mark for his first NHL goal last night. Rangers’ forward Alexis Lafrenière had played six games heading into last night’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres and failed to register a point. He certainly picked the right time to pick up his first as he sealed a hard-fought victory for the Rangers with the overtime winning goal. He had a season-high four shots on goal in the game and registered 15:27 time on ice, playing on the Rangers’ third line with Brett Howden and Kaapo Kakko.

It’s the first of many for the two-time CHL Player of the Year and 2020 World Junior Championship MVP, and sometimes it just takes time getting your first to open the flood gates. While he is currently playing in a bottom-six role for New York, he is also receiving minutes on the second power play unit and has played on the second line with Artemi Panarin a few times this season. If he can ever find a consistent spot on one of the top units, it might be a comeback season for Lafrenière to challenge for the Calder Trophy.

Dellandrea’s First NHL Goal Seals Stars Win

Lafrenière wasn’t the only player to record his first NHL goal last night, as former Flint Firebirds captain and Dallas Stars’ prospect Ty Dellandrea capped off a dominant 7-3 victory over the Red Wings with a goal. It’s was Dellandrea’s fourth game of the season after being inserted into the lineup for the Stars’ season opener against the Nashville Predators on Jan. 22.

He was pointless heading into the game, but along with grabbing his first NHL goal, he also picked up an assist on the Stars’ seventh goal of the game. He has been playing right wing on the Stars’ third line with Andrew Cogliano and Radek Faska to start the season.

During the 2019-20 season, Dellandrea amassed 32 goals and 38 assists for 70 points in 47 games played with the Firebirds in the Ontario Hockey League. He also represented Canada at the 2020 World Junior Championship, winning a gold medal and recording three goals and two assists for five points in seven games played. He spent the early part of this season on loan in the Finnish Liiga with JYP, where he registered two goals and one assist in six games played. The Stars have won their first four games of the season after sitting out due to Covid-19, and Dellandrea will be a big part of their success moving forward.

WHL Granted Approval to Return to Play

Yesterday, the WHL announced that it has been granted approval to return to play in the province of Alberta. This enables the WHL’s Alberta-based teams to open their season on Friday, Feb. 26. The teams who will be able to begin playing are the Red Deer Rebels, Edmonton Oil Kings, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Medicine Hat Tigers, and Calgary Hitmen. The only former Central Division team who won’t be able to return to play are the Swift Current Broncos, who play out of Saskatchewan.

In a press release from the league, WHL Commissioner Ron Robison had this to say about the announcement.

The WHL appreciates the support we have received from Alberta Health as we work towards a safe return to play in the province. With our extensive protocols and the necessary approvals now in place, we are looking forward to play getting underway in Alberta and allowing our players to continue their development at the highest level in the Canadian system.

No spectators will be allowed into the team’s facilities, and a schedule for the Central Division will be announced closer to the Feb.26 start date. As previously announced, the WHL will be playing a 24-game schedule for the 2020-21 season. There are still no updates on the remaining East Division, B.C. Division and U.S. Division, however, the league is working with health officials in those regions to determine when it would be safe to return to play.

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