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

Over Alexis Lafreniere’s three seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, his team, the Rimouski Oceanic, won more often than not — so club success isn’t exactly unfamiliar to the 2020 first-overall pick.

But learning how to stay even-keeled when wins start stacking up in the NHL is a whole new experience for the Rangers’ winger.

“It’s a little different for sure,” he said Tuesday after practice. “I think it’s obviously the best league in the world, so it’s hard to win every night. You’ve got to be ready because every team can beat you, so it’s really going out there and being ready as a team and individually.

“I think it’s good to win, but you can’t get too high. That’s a big part of sport. If you want to play with consistency, you’ve got to never be too high, never be too low. It’s something we try to do as a team and it helps us for sure.”

Lafreniere has had an eventful sophomore 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 play, Lafreniere is still finding his identity as an NHL player and developing his game.

alexis lafreniere, filip chytil, julien gauthier, new york rangers

Alexis Lafreniere

AP

The 20-year-old winger has comfortably settled in to a role on the third line next to fellow youngsters Filip Chytil and Julien Gauthier. The trio was playing confidently heading into the Rangers’ matchup with the Flyers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. While the unit had only produced two goals entering the game, the ‘Kid Line’ had recorded 22 high-danger scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick.

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

“So that certainly helps and you get to know how they play a little bit. It’s good and we’ll try to keep getting better as a line.”

It’s been difficult for the Rangers to establish any continuity in the lineup amid a few injuries and run-ins with COVID-19. Earlier this season, Lafreniere saw some time next to Sammy Blais, who has since suffered a season-ending ACL tear. Part of what Lafreniere liked about playing with Blais was being able to speak French on the ice.

That’s something that Lafreniere has been able to carry over to playing with Gauthier, who is also French Canadian.

“We try to speak English with Fil, so everybody is on the same page,” Lafreniere said.

Blais may have had a higher skill level than Gauthier, but the latter brings the same level of physicality and is one of the few Rangers who can consistently crash the net. Lafreniere noted that his line would like to score a little more, but that the chemistry is certainly coming along.

“He’s a big boy but he can really skate, so I think just when he drives wide, he’s hard to stop,” Lafreniere said of Gauthier. “For me, I just have to read this and get open on the other side of the ice. He showed last game he can find me. So that’s part of getting to know how to play together.”

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