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On which line should Alexis Lafreniere start the season?

October 18, 2020, 12:13 PM ET [337 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Larry Brooks gave Rangers faithful a topic to discuss over the morning coffee and for several hours thereafter. While this has been an item of chatter in the prior blog, I wanted to weigh in with my view. That opinion may mirror some of what you think and feel, so please respond in the comments with your view, even if you covered it in the prior blog.

Brooks covers how bonus packages for Morgan Barron and Vitali Kravtsov will impact their ability to make the team due to the possible cap implications in this column, which we discussed the other day. But that is not the main topic of conversation for this blog. Here is what was driving discussion this morning:

I’ll tell you this. Whenever I see a projected Rangers’ lineup that does not have Alexis Lafreniere in the top six, but rather on the third line with the Blueshirts stacking left wings Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and Lafreniere, I hope this does not reflect the views of management.

I think I mentioned my view of where Lafreniere should start his Rangers career in my prior blogs, especially after the draft lottery and when he was drafted. But if not, let me provide my view again. Brooks is right and wrong.

Points pro and con:
- Lafreniere will be 19+ when the season started, so he won't be a complete babe in the woods when his career begins
- He is more than willing and able to take care of himself on the ice, showing a physical presence, at times which he has maybe gone over the line
- Skating with Mika Zibanejad should help accelerate his development, regardless of who is on the right side of that line. As of now, that is to be Pavel Buchnevich
- Nathan MacKinnon jumped from the QMJHL as an 18 year, scoring 63 points, including 17 on the man-advantage (hat tip to jimbo for this point)- The Rangers third line would not be a traditional third line. Presuming Ryan Strome returns as the 2c and Filip Chytil is the 3c, Laf would be on a line with Chytil and likely Julien Gauthier. As MDW said, New York had a similar "scoring/checking" line in Zuccarello/Brassard/Pouliot. Laf and Gauthier are each willing to be physical, so that trio would be a carryover from the top-six.

- Why place undue pressure of the rookie, above and beyond what he will be feeling already for being the first overall pick and playing in the media capital of the world
- The team may be better served allowing the kid to acclimate to the NHL by starting on the third line and moving him up if.when he shows he is ready
- Under no uncertain terms should Lafreniere be moved to the right side. Adapting to the NHL will be hard enough. Moving him away from his comfort zone to his offside would be piling on the difficulty
- If Laf is in the top-six, Chris Kreider is moved to the third line. I list this in the con section, but unsure I would qualify this as such. Granted, not ideal to have a $6.5 mil third line winger. But unless CK20 or Artemi Panarin move to the right side, what other solution is there?

My view in general is this. Initially, see what happens in training camp. If Laf proves worthy of the top-six, I could that happening, But, to me, I likely would start him on the third line and second power play unit. Then, as he gets his feet wet or shows he is ready to move up, make that change. Coach David Quinn has to prep Kreider and/or Panarin for this possible switch in camp, so that everyone is on the same page when that swap occurs. the key is to find three trios that are effective, this should drive the combinations and not where the player was drafted.

What say you?

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