Alexis Lafreniere, expected to be the No. 1 pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, will not report to training camp with Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League or play for a team in Europe this fall.
The 18-year-old forward will train for the start of the 2020-21 NHL season near his home in Saint-Eustache, Quebec.
The New York Rangers have the No. 1 pick in the draft after winning the Second Phase of the NHL Draft Lottery on Monday.
“Alexis loved his time in Rimouski,” Emilie Castonguay, Lafreniere’s agent, said Wednesday. “He spent three seasons there and will forever be tied to a team that helped develop him into a top player. … We just felt it was better for him given the current state of the pandemic and of hockey around the world to continue his preparation at home where he has a great support system on and off the ice to get ready for his first NHL camp.”
Castonguay said a number of teams from Europe showed interest in signing Lafreniere but she said no formal discussions were held.
Lafreniere is No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American prospects.
“He’s a really smart player and his hockey IQ is at the highest level possible,” Jean-Francois Damphousse of NHL Central Scouting said. “He’s not a finesse guy who only relies on his overall skills … he competes, he hits, he finishes checks, and is really entertaining to watch. You can feel it when he’s on the ice.
“I wasn’t there when (Pittsburgh Penguins captain) Sidney Crosby played (for Rimouski from 2003-05), but you got that feeling that something special was going to happen every time he was on the ice. Alexis brings that same level of excitement.”
Lafreniere led the QMJHL with 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) in 52 games this season and was named the league’s most valuable player for a second consecutive season. He also won Canadian Hockey League player of the year for a second straight season. Lafreniere and Crosby (2004, 2005) are the only players to win the award twice.
Lafreniere also was the most valuable player of the IIHF 2020 World Junior Championship after he scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games to help Canada win the championship.
In three QMJHL seasons, Lafreniere scored 297 points (114 goals, 183 assists) in 173 games. Among players with three seasons or fewer in the league since 2000-01, Lafreniere is fourth in points, after Claude Giroux (321), Olivier Proulx (314) and Vitali Abramov (301).
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