Alexis Lafrenière walked into much the same situation as Kakko when it came to deployment in his rookie season. Before the Rangers moved up 14 slots to snare the top pick in the NHL Draft Lottery, the most a team had jumped to get the top pick was New Jersey moving from fifth to first in 2017.
That meant that for the first time, the number one pick was joining a team that was arguably better than any other team with the top pick in the lottery era. As the consensus top pick, the Rangers had no choice but to draft him, despite their greatest organizational need being a shortage of centers.
It meant that Lafrenière was joining a team as the third seed at left wing behind Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider, both signed to long term,big dollar contracts. As a result, whereas most forwards picked in the top five are thrust into important roles on their teams and get a lot of power play time, that was not true for Lafrenière.
From the 2004-05 lockout through 2020-21, 172 forwards selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft have played 50 or more games in their rookie season. Lafrenière averaged 13:53 TOI per game in his rookie season. 98 of those 172 forwards averaged more ice time than the Ranger did.
Here’s how the forwards picked first overall did when it came to ice time in their rookie season:
- 2006 – Sidney Crosby 20:08
- 2007 – Patrick Kane 18:22
- 2008 – Steven Stamkos 14:56
- 2009 – John Tavares 18:00
- 2010 – Taylor Hall 18:13
- 2011 – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 17:36
- 2012 – Nail Yakupov 14:34
- 2013 – Nathan Mackinnon 17:21
- 2015 – Connor McDavid 18:53
- 2016 – Auston Matthews 17:38
- 2017 – Nico Hischier 16:19
- 2019 – Jack Hughes 15:52
- 2020 – Alexis Lafrenière 13:53
As we said, Lafrenière was put into a position not experienced by any other top pick and that resulted in his playing fewer minutes that any other top pick as well as a majority of forwards taken in the first round.
Deployment and scoring
So far in his career, Alexis Lafrenière has played 133 minutes in on the power play in 101 games, mostly on the second unit. That’s an average of 1:19 PP minutes per game. He has yet to score a power play goal or get a power play assist.
Of those 172 first round forwards who have played since the lockout, there are 123 who averaged more time on the power play in their rookie season. It’s the fewest minutes by far among all of the other number one overall picks.
Though Lafrenière’s lack of power play scoring is surprising, you can chalk most of it up to the fact that the second unit really doesn’t get the time to set up in the attacking zone. His deployment on the second until is not his fault. Like Kakko, he had the misfortune to be drafted by a team with a top power play and there was no way that he would crack a first unit that featured Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider and Ryan Strome.
So, what does it mean for the future?