Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere finding home on the ‘Kid Line’

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In Alexis Lafrenier’s three seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, his team, Rimousci Oceanic, won more often than not – so the club’s success is not exactly unfamiliar to the 2020 first-overall pick.

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But when wins start to pile up in the NHL, learning how to stay afloat is a whole new experience for the Rangers winger.

“It’s definitely a little different,” he said after practice on Tuesday. “I think it’s obviously the best league in the world, so it’s hard to win every night. You have to be prepared because every team can beat you, so it’s really going to be there and as a team more personally prepared.

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“I think it’s good to win, but you can’t be too high. It’s a big part of the game. If you want to play with consistency, you should never go too high, never too low.” It’s something that we try to do as a team and it definitely helps us.”

Lafreniere has had an eventful sophistication campaign so far. From starting the season on the top line to a brief demotion to the bottom unit due to his up-and-down game, Lafrenier is still finding his mark as an NHL player and developing his game.

alexis lafrenire
AP
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The 20-year-old winger has comfortably moved into a role third in line after fellow youngsters Philippe Chitill and Julian Gauthier. The trio were playing confidently in the Rangers’ matchup with the Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. While the unit had only scored two goals entering the game, the ‘Kid Line’ recorded 22 high-threat scoring chances, according to Natural State Trick.

“We’re getting more comfortable playing together and we still try to figure things out, you know, practice, in the game,” Lafrenier said of his line. “I think we’ve played, I don’t know how many games, but a couple together and of course, you know a little bit about where the people are on the ice and things like that.

“So that definitely helps and gives you an idea of ​​how they play a little bit. It’s good and we will try to keep getting better as a line.”

With COVID-19 a few injuries and run-ins, it has been difficult for Rangers to establish any continuity in the lineup. Earlier this season, Lafrenier spent some time next to Sammy Blass, who has since suffered an ACL tear at the end of the season. Part of what Lafrenier liked about playing with Blais was being able to speak French on ice.

This is something that Lafrenier has been able to play with Gauthier, who is also a French Canadian.

“We try to speak English with Phil, so everyone is on the same page,” Lafrenier said.

Blass may have a higher skill level than Gauthier, but the latter brings a similar level of physicality and is one of the few rangers who can consistently crash the net. Lafrenier said his line would like to score a bit more, but the chemistry is definitely coming along.

“He’s a big guy but he can really skate, so I think when he drives wide, it’s hard to stop,” Lafrenier said of Gauthier. “For me, I just have to read it and open up to the other side of the ice. He showed up last game that he could find me. So that’s part of knowing how to play together.”

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