Martin C. Barry
His name is Alexis Lafrenière and you may be hearing a lot more of it by this time next year when he’s turned 18 and becomes eligible for the National Hockey League’s annual player draft.
Seventeen year old Lafrenière, who started playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League at age 15, was the honoured guest on June 1 at Denis Breton Chevrolet Buick GMC on Dubois St. in Saint-Eustache, where he signed autographs and talked with fans young and old.
Rookie of the Year
The 6’1”, 192 lb. Saint-Eustache native is currently one of the most promising stars in the QMJHL, playing centre for the Rimouski Océanic. Selected first overall by the Océanic in 2017, he was awarded the QMJHL’s Rookie of the Year award and was named to the First All-Star team in his first season.
Lafrenière also represented Canada internationally at the 2018 IIHF World U18 Championships, the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and at the 2019 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. As captain of Team Canada’s junior team, Lafrenière led the squadron to a gold medal.
In his rookie season with the Océanic, Lafrenière scored 42 goals, the most by a rookie since Sidney Crosby in 2004. He was also awarded the RDS Cup. At the age of 16, Lafrenière was the youngest player selected for Team Canada’s U18 team at the 2018 IIHF World U18 Championships.
Despite being the second youngest player on the roster, he captained Team Canada at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He led the tournament with 11 points in five games, helping Canada win the gold. Lafrenière also won the Canadian Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player designation, which is particularly impressive since it involves the OHL, WHL and QMJHL.
Sure to be a high pick
“Next year is his draft year and so he will be a very high pick,” says Émilie Castonguay, an NHLPA-certified hockey agent who represents Lafrenière. “We’re hoping that he’ll have a great year. Hopefully he will participate in the World Junior Championship and have a great year with his team and we’ll see. We don’t want to put too much pressure on the first overall pick. But if he continues this way, then I wouldn’t be surprised that he would be picked.”
For his part, Lafrenière, who comes across off the ice as polite and gentlemanly, appears to be very focused on the year that lies ahead, without too much concern about the outcome. “It’s going pretty well right now and I just try to keep going and keep working hard,” he said in an interview with the North Shore News. “You dream about the draft since you’re really young. To be at your draft year is something exciting and I look forward to that.”
Making an impression
In the tight-knit world of Canadian junior hockey, news of Lafrenière’s talent on the ice has started to get around. In a sports news short last November by the Canadian Press, Rimouski Océanic head coach Serge Beausoleil was quoted suggesting that he sometimes feels a little bit humbled watching Lafrenière performing.
“He’s always two steps ahead when he plays and he sees a lot of things most hockey guys cannot see,” Beausoleil said. The wire service agreed that Lafrenière’s 2018-19 season was something that ordinarily would see him in NHL draft discussions already, except for his late birthday. But certainly, the similarities between Lafrenière and two other precocious hockey talents – Sydney Crosby and Wayne Gretzky – are undeniable.