Cheap Seats: Why the World Juniors solidified Alexis Lafrenière as the first overall pick

(Graphic by Alex Dascalu/AQ)

The World Junior Hockey Championships have become a bigger Canadian celebration than Boxing Day for hockey fans. Even though the tournament was in the Czech Republic this year, the seats of the arenas are still a sea of Canadians dressed in red from head to toe.

This year, a new star made a name for himself: Alexis Lafrenière. In this year’s gold medal game, Canada beat Russia 4-3, which included late goals and lucky power plays for Canada. Every player on Canada’s roster contributed, including Lafrenière who tallied two assists.

Quebec’s Rimouski Oceanic star is the projected first pick for this year’s National Hockey League draft. His recent display on the world stage has sealed and delivered his place as the first pick, recording four goals and six assists in just five games in the tournament.

Showed up and showed out

Lafrenière could be the first Quebec forward to be drafted first overall since Vincent Lecavalier in 1998. Lecavalier was declared by then Tampa Bay Lightning owner, Art Williams as “the Michael Jordan of hockey.”

Lafrenière has 73 points in just 34 games so far in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In his first 32 games, he was on pace to put up 140 points. In just five games at the WJHC, Lafrenière potted four goals and six assists in only five games as he missed two games with a knee injury.

In Lecavalier’s two seasons with Rimouski, he had 86 goals, 132 assists for 218 points in a total of 122 games played.

When playing, Lafrenière displayed his Jedi-like patience passing the puck and his pin-point accuracy with his shot.

The ultimate scouting hub

The World Juniors are busy for an NHL scout. All of the NHL’s hottest prospects are in one city, pitted against each other for the world to see.

Some of today’s superstars were challenged on this stage in their days of being a prospect. Connor McDavid, a Hart Memorial Trophy winner, was the most hyped young star since Sidney Crosby and he didn’t disappoint on the world stage. After Lafrenière’s success, he looks ready to do the same.

In McDavid’s last tournament, he was tied for the tournament lead in points with three goals and eight assists in seven games played while leading Canada to the gold medal.

There’s no way to know if Lafrenière will be the next McDavid or Crosby, but his international play shows a long successful NHL career.