The New York Rangers selected left wing Alexis Lafreniere of the QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic with the first pick in the 2020 NHL draft on Tuesday. The Rangers had never selected with the first overall pick in the entry draft era, which began in 1979.
Lafreniere, who will turn 19 on Sunday, was the consensus top prospect in this draft class after he put together a remarkable and decorated season between Rimouski in a shortened season and Team Canada at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship. Lafreniere led the QMJHL in scoring with 112 points in 52 games, earning league MVP honors for the second straight season. His 2.15 points per game average was the highest across Canada's top three junior leagues since Connor McDavid had 2.50 in his final season in the OHL in 2014-15.
"Growing up, you're dreaming of being drafted. And for me today, it's amazing to go first," Lafreniere said. "I'm really honored."
Lafreniere was named the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year for the second straight season, joining Sidney Crosby as the only players to win the award twice. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound winger overcame a mid-tournament injury to lead Canada to the gold medal at the World Junior Championship, scoring 10 points in five games on the way to earning MVP honors.
A forward with an uncommon combination of elite skill and physicality, Lafreniere has been among the most prized prospects of the 2001 birth year for some time. He was the QMJHL's rookie of the year in his first season in 2017-18, and he will finish his career in Quebec's top junior circuit with 297 points in 173 games.
"Today, I woke up, and I was really excited, and I just got ready for the pick," Lafreniere said. "I'm just a little speechless."
Lafreniere represents one of the final pieces to the rebuild puzzle for the Rangers, who have assembled one of the strongest prospect pools in the NHL over the past three seasons. Lafreniere will join a roster that includes a Hart Trophy finalist in Artemi Panarin, one of the most promising goalies in the game in Igor Shesterkin and last year's No. 2 overall pick on the opposite wing, Kaapo Kakko.
The Rangers earned the top pick in the draft after the Carolina Hurricanes swept them out of the qualification round of the NHL's postseason. New York was among eight eliminated teams with a 12.5% chance to earn the No. 1 overall pick.
The Rangers, who also had the No. 22 overall pick, chose to deal that slot to the Calgary Flames to move up later Tuesday. New York sent No. 22 and a third-round choice, No. 72, to Calgary for No. 19 overall.
The Rangers -- tucked between two picks of their rivals, the New Jersey Devils at Nos. 18 and 20 -- chose Canadian defenseman Braden Schneider at that spot.
Rounds 2-7 of the draft will be held Wednesday.