No despair for Lafreniere: Projected prime choose prepared to steer Canada’s WJC effort

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Alexis Lafreniere may be one among Canada’s youngest gamers on the World Junior Championship, however he is already a match veteran. He enters as the perfect participant within the CHL, and followers of bottom-feeding NHL franchises must take notice.Alexis Lafreniere|Kevin Gentle/Getty ImagesPlaying for Canada on the World Junior Championship brings immense strain only a few youngsters can thrive in. Doing it as the highest prospect in a loaded draft class? Alexis Lafreniere has his work minimize out for him.
However Lafreniere is a yr older now, and with 70 factors by way of 32 QMJHL video games with Rimouski this season – an eight-point lead over linemate Cedric Pare and Hamilton’s Arthur Kaliyev for first within the CHL – there isn’t a higher main junior participant within the nation proper now. Final week, Lafreniere didn’t skate throughout Canada’s four-day choice camp in Oakville, Ont. as a result of a lingering ankle harm, but it surely’s not just like the group’s teaching workers didn’t have already got an enormous e-book on him as it’s. Lafreniere was Canada’s 13th ahead for a lot of the 2019 version of the world juniors, ending the match with one aim in 5 video games. As a 17-year-old, he noticed some top-six responsibility alongside Nick Suzuki because the occasion went on, however the Canadians didn’t have a lot intention of giving him important minutes.
And that have may go a great distance. Lafreniere is one among 5 returning gamers on Canada’s roster, becoming a member of forwards Joe Veleno and Barrett Hayton and defensemen Jared McIsaac and Ty Smith. The distinction? Lafreniere simply turned 18 in October, whereas the opposite 4 had been drafted two summers in the past. Final yr was a steep studying curve for the younger star who seemed good at factors however in any other case struggled to remain snug in a task he wasn’t too accustomed to. That chance was essential for Lafreniere, who’ll play a way more important position for Canada this time round.
“It was exhausting to lose the quarterfinal, Lafreniere stated. “We wished to go so far as we will. We’ll use this expertise for this yr.”
Lafreniere gained’t be a stranger to the highlight going ahead, with the Quebec native projected to go first general on the draft in June – in Montreal, no much less. However even with all of Lafreniere’s big-game expertise, together with medals on the U-17 World Hockey Problem and Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, he is aware of what he’s entering into within the Czech Republic later this month is a very totally different animal, and having final yr as a warm-up was beneficial.
“It’s totally different, it’s huge. Everyone is watching, it’s brief,” Lafreniere stated. “Each group is absolutely good and each recreation you’ve obtained to be at your greatest. It’s enjoyable hockey to play.”
As for his ankle, Lafreniere didn’t appear too involved when he talked about it at camp and has since resumed skating on Canada’s prime line with Hayton and Nolan Foote. Whereas the specifics of his ailment weren’t confirmed on the time, Lafreniere missed the CHL-Russia Collection in November as a result of harm. For the reason that collection, Lafreniere posted factors in 13 consecutive video games, together with 10 factors throughout a Three-in-Three previous to becoming a member of Canada in Oakville.
“After I’m taking part in I don’t really feel it that a lot,” Lafreniere stated in Oakville. “Perhaps a bit bit after, but it surely’s good once I’m taking part in. I can skate fairly good I feel, so I’m good with it.”
Lafreniere will likely be one among Canada’s most essential gamers, and as a late 2001-born ahead, the group gained’t be utilizing the “too younger” card to find out his ice time. Connor McMichael and Dylan Cozens, two of Canada’s most harmful scoring stars, had been additionally born in 2001. Lafreniere’s combination of pace and ability will likely be a great complement to Hayton’s two-way play and Foote’s deadly shot, assuming the trio stick collectively, however Lafreniere additionally confirmed appreciable chemistry with Joe Veleno through the World Junior Summer season Showcase, too. No matter who Lafreniere performs with, he shouldn’t have a problem placing up factors for a robust Canadian squad destined to battle for gold.
Having final yr’s run in his again pocket will take a few of the butterflies away from Lafreniere as he heads abroad for what must be his final match with the under-20 group earlier than getting into an NHL position subsequent yr. The largest lesson he discovered final yr?
“No video games off,” he stated. “As a result of it may be actually exhausting on the finish of the match for those who missed video games otherwise you didn’t present up. You’ve obtained to play each night time prefer it’s your final one.”
For Lafreniere, that would be the case. However this time, he hopes to convey a medal again house with him – ideally one of many gold selection.
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Tags: prospects, worldwide hockey, world junior championship, nhl draftConnect: Concerning the AuthorSteven EllisSteven Ellis is a Digital Content material Producer for The Hockey Information. He spends his free time listening to music you would not like and watches obnoxiously-long motor races.

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