New York Rangers: The Alexis Lafreniere Debate Rages On

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 24: Alexis Lafreniere #13 of the New York Rangers takes a break during the first period of a preseason game against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on September 24, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins won 3-0. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 24: Alexis Lafreniere #13 of the New York Rangers takes a break during the first period of a preseason game against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on September 24, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins won 3-0. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) /
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BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 24: Alexis Lafreniere #13 of the New York Rangers takes a break during the first period of a preseason game against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on September 24, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins won 3-0. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 24: Alexis Lafreniere #13 of the New York Rangers takes a break during the first period of a preseason game against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on September 24, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins won 3-0. (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) /

Nothing quite splits the New York Rangers fanbase like Alexis Lafreniere does. One of the most exciting youngsters in the NHL who doesn’t seem to have the work ethic of an NHL player with defensive issues while remaining a solid depth producer with the talent to become a star in this league. On the one hand, he’s got all the talent in the world, but if I may quote Tim Notke, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Lafreniere seems to epitomize this saying. A former first-overall pick with world-conquering talent who just hasn’t become what he was projected to be for so many reasons. Some have accused the Quebecois winger of not having the work ethic required to be among the best in this league. Whether you believe that to be true or not, there’s no denying that Lafreniere has underperformed when it comes to the expectations placed on him.

After a long summer, Lafreniere got a new contract worth $2.325 million for the next two seasons. That number is not particularly large because Lafreniere has not done much to earn his big-time NHL paycheck, but there remains the question of what comes next for the 2020 1st overall pick. Some fans have grown tired of waiting for the emergence of one of the best prospects we have seen coming out of the QMJHL.

Now, Lafreniere has the talent to be a game-breaking NHL talent. He can be up there with the 100-point point producers. We’ve seen it already; the talent is there. Part of what makes Lafreniere so annoying as a fan is that he isn’t this complete bust that was just picked in the wrong position. Lafreniere is one of the most naturally gifted players this league offers.  It’s getting the water from the stone that has proved difficult.

With young players such as Will Cuylle and Brennan Othmann having shown more in the preseason to this point than Alexis has, it’s difficult to say with complete confidence that he should keep his place in this lineup over some of the emerging talents. Some fans have started to turn on the young winger, but the logic for doing so is justified.

Some have started to call for Lafreniere to go down to the AHL with Hartford, but he would need waivers to do that. There is no chance that Lafreniere clears waivers. At various points throughout the summer, there were rumors of a trade request from Lafreniere and rumors of Chris Drury listening to offers on this player. Nothing materialized, obviously, since the player is still here.

Question for Blue Line Station readers: What should the Rangers do with Lafreniere?