The NY Rangers were swept out of the NHL bubble in Toronto 10 days ago. They were beaten in the best-of-five series by the Carolina Hurricanes, losing 3-2, 4-1 and 4-1. They went into the series with the promise of a long playoff run, but the Hurricanes nearly evened up the season series by winning all three games. The Rangers won all four in the regular season against the Hurricanes.
The Rangers didn’t play badly, but they didn’t play well. They were mediocre at best and were not able to muster up a deep playoff run let alone win a game. Despite pre-series promise, neither Henrik Lundqvist nor Igor Shesterkin were good enough to help the Rangers past Carolina.
The rest of the team didn’t have their A-Game either. Head coach David Quinn said, “Our goaltending was the least of our problems.” He added, “We score four goals, four goals in three games, you’re not going to win a series doing that.”
About a week after they were eliminated from the 24-team return-to-play- format, Rangers players, staff and loyal fans got a nice surprise. On Monday, they won the NHL Draft Lottery, which took a little bit of sting out of being bounced by the Hurricanes.
Rangers’ general manager Jeff Gorton had this to say after the lottery: “Anytime you can pick first, especially this year, it’s a special year, we all know that.” Gorton also said, “It was tough up in the bubble, those three games, Carolina gave it to us pretty good, but surely excited to have this happen to us tonight.”
The Rangers had a 2.5 percent chance to win the first-overall pick. Out of the 15 teams involved in the lottery, they had the 12th-best chance. They’re the first team to make the playoffs and have the first selection since the Minnesota North Stars chose Brian Lawton in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft. This is the first time in franchise history the Rangers have the first-overall pick.
When asked what he thought about the first pick and everything else moving forward Gorton said, “I feel like things are coming together, there’s a lot of work left to be done, don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but I think it’s a good night for Rangers fans.”
Alexis Lafreniere is a two-time Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Player of the Year award winner. He’s the second person, along with Sidney Crosby, ever to do so. Lafreniere plays with Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), the same place Crosby played in Junior.
Lafreniere, an 18-year-old from Saint-Eustache, Quebec, finished the season leading the QMJHL with 112 points. He scored 35 goals and had 77 assists in 52 games. The 6-foot-1, 193-pound left-winger recorded 297 points in 193 games in three seasons with Rimouski.
Lafreniere was named the top North American skater by NHL’s Central Scouting. He pretty much cemented himself with that distinction and will most likely be the first player chosen on Oct. 9 because of his 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship play. He led the Canadian team to a gold medal and was named tournament MVP. He was also voted best forward and named to the WJC All-Star Team.
The projected future Rangers forward had this to say when he learned who won the lottery, “Really good news; the Rangers are an unreal team with really good players… Really nice city, so for sure, it’s really good news and I’m really happy.”
Lafreniere, who’s a fan of Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejed said, “It really is exciting, like you said, Panarin is one of the best players in the League, and Zibanejad and guys like that, they’re a really good team, and I think they’re going to have a lot of success in the next couple of years. For sure, it’s pretty fun.”
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However, there could be some shake-ups with restricted and unrestricted free agents Ryan Strome and Jesper fast, respectively, who still haven’t been signed. So far, it appears the first-overall pick is more certain than what the Rangers’ roster is going to look like, but time will only shed light on that answer. For now, Rangers fans, players and staff alike can take in the fact that their future got a little bit brighter this week after a bad time in Toronto’s NHL bubble.
Scott Blair is an author and journalist from Los Angeles, CA, by way of Detroit, MI. Uniquely diverse experiences have shaped Scott’s life in both of those places he calls home. He is now traveling the world, learning and growing as a human and a writer. He was a professional hockey player and then turned to the arts, becoming an actor for about 15 years. His passions turned to poetry, prose, politics, and journalism when he got tired of the Hollywood machine and what it represents. Scott is available for interviews and welcomes questions and topic ideas.