LW, ALEXIS LAFRENIERE
While I don’t want to go as far as labeling him a “bust” yet, as he’s only in his sophomore season as a 20-year-old, I can’t deny that as good as he may become, Lafreniere may not amass to the production expected out of a first overall pick.
It’s gone beyond the point of “growing pains” for me, as the deficiencies in his skating, forechecking, and playmaking, which has accumulated to six goals and 22 points in 48 games, don’t expound confidence of him becoming the franchise star Rangerstown thought they were getting when he was selected.
Lafreniere is in the final year of his entry-level $925,000 contract. The hope is the Rangers retain him so the “Kid Line” can stick together and play a prominent role in more Rangers playoff runs akin to last year when they propelled New York to the final four, including Laffy, who registered nine points in 20 games.
C, FILIP CHYTIL
Last season it was Chris Kreider who was the Ranger’s surprise producer, and this time around, it’s Filip Chytil. The 29-year-old center is having a career year at the perfect time, for his $2.3 million contract expires this Summer.
The 2017 first-round pick validated his seven goals and nine points in 20 playoff games last Spring, with 16 and 29 points in 41 games this season.
Of his tallies, 13 have come at even strength, which is second on the team, one behind Kreider.
What’s holding me back from giving him an “A” is his dreadful 38.5% faceoff win% and his constant trips to the penalty box, which is why he’s withheld from being out there in late-game situations.
RW, KAAPO KAKKO
Kakko has been a revelation of late, with five goals and fifteen points across his most recent 28 contests.
His augmented all-around play, which includes driving pucks toward the net, applying offensive zone pressure, and winning board battles, has allowed him to be effective without the puck and has increased his overall “game score,” a stat that tracks your contributions throughout games, to 0.97 for the season, third on the team behind his kid mate Filip Chytil’s 1.33 and Adam Fox’s 1.44. The forward has been particularly noticeable at even strength, where his +9.21 “Expected Goals” is the best among his teammates who share his position.
The Fin has shown flashes of someone that can be an offensive mainstay at the NHL level. His 23 points in 49 games have tied a career-high from what a surplus of pundits labeled a “disappointing” rookie year, and should he keep this up, he will be primed for more than just the 2-year $2.1 million AAV bridge deal he received last Summer.