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Rangers select Lafreniere with No. 1 overall pick

    Chris Peters is ESPN’s NHL draft and prospects analyst. The Chicago native previously covered the NHL for CBSSports.com and founded the popular independent blog UnitedStatesofHockey.com where he covered the game at all levels since 2010.

The New York Rangers selected left wing Alexis Lafreniere of the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic with the first pick in the 2020 NHL draft on Tuesday. The Rangers had never previously selected with the first overall pick in the entry draft era, which began in 1979.

Lafreniere, who will turn 19 on Sunday, was the consensus top prospect in this draft class after putting together a remarkable and decorated season between his efforts with Rimouski in a shortened season and for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship. He led the QMJHL in scoring with 112 points in just 52 games, earning league MVP honors for the second straight season. His 2.15 points per game average was the highest across Canada’s top three junior leagues since Connor McDavid had 2.50 in his final season in the OHL in 2014-15.

Additionally, Lafreniere was named the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year for the second straight season, joining Sidney Crosby as the only other player to win that award twice. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound winger overcame a mid-tournament injury to lead Canada to the gold medal at the 2020 World Junior Championship, scoring 10 points in just five games on the way to earning MVP honors.

A forward with an uncommon combination of elite skill and physicality, Lafreniere has been among the most prized prospects of the 2001 birth year for some time. He was the QMJHL’s rookie of the year in his first season in 2017-18, and he will finish his career in Quebec’s top junior circuit with 297 points in 173 games.

Lafreniere represents one of the final pieces to the rebuild puzzle for the Rangers, who have assembled one of the strongest prospect pools in the NHL over the past three seasons. He will join a roster that includes a Hart Trophy finalist in Artemi Panarin, one of the most promising goalies in the game in Igor Shesterkin and last year’s No. 2 overall pick on the opposite wing, Kaapo Kakko.

The Rangers earned the top pick in the draft after the Carolina Hurricanes swept them out of the qualification round of the NHL’s unique postseason setup. New York was among eight eliminated teams with a 12.5% chance to earn the No. 1 overall pick.

At No. 2, the Los Angeles Kings selected center Quinton Byfield of the Ontario Hockey League. And at No. 3, the Ottawa Senators chose forward Tim Stutzle of Germany.

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