Big Ben Grateful Tuesday: NY Rangers Hit the Jackpot in Alexis Lafrenière

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STAMFORD, CT -Tropical storm Isaias took out a few telephone poles and trees in my neighborhood and I’ve been without power for a week. Crews keep coming to “access” but no one ever comes to fix. It’s the fixing that’s important, really. It would be easy to be all #2020Sucks and most certainly, it does. But I’ve got a lot to be grateful for. I’m grateful for extra electronic-free time with my girls, for helpful neighbors and for my Dad coming through with a generator. I’m thankful for baseball pressing on through obstacles. I’m thankful that my New York Rangers, after a quick exit from the #CovidCup, were able to pull a magic ball out of their asses to get the top pick. Let’s discuss that last one.

The Rangers had a 12.5% chance of getting the top pick. After getting pretty lucky last year with Kaapo Kakko, it didn’t seem likely to happen again. But like Roy Cleveland Sullivan, the Virginia Park (and honorary New York) Ranger who was struck by lightning seven times, struck again for our Rangers.

The expected top pick is Alexis Lafrenière, the Quebec native who was in the midst of a monster CHL season with 112 points in 52 games. I’ll no math scientist, but I think that’s pretty good. The 2.15 points per game is the most since some guy Conor McDavid. Oh boy!

BEN_WHITNEY, Meet_The_Matts, NHL Bubble, Rangers, Roy Cleveland Sullivan, Alexis Lafreniere

Lafrenière is a winger, unfortunately, as the Rangers are a little thin in the middle behind Zibanejad. But they can’t pass on that kind of talent.

The Broadway Blues jumped started their rebuild by signing Artemi Panarin and committed to it by extending Chris Kreider. The Bread Man lived up to his contract and then some in his first year in New York, but his signing seemed a touch premature. The timing of the youngsters coming together didn’t seem like it would line up wuite right.

The Rangers still have one more year of Hank, should he decide to play on, and one more bad contract year of Mark Stahl and Brendan Smith. They moved Brady Skjei to make room for Kreider’s contract, and to make room for younger, cheaper options on the D. They’ll need prospects K’Andre Miller, Libor Hajek, and Nils Lundqvist to make the jump. Like now. And up front Vitaly Kravtsov will need to start realizing his potential. I’m not even gonna talk about Igor Shesterkin, because the kid is clearly legit.

Next season seems best used to get their young d-men, Kravtsov, and Lafrenière time on the clock. And another year for Kaapo, who looked more aggressive in the playoffs, should help. But they will likely be even younger and we should expect some ups and downs.

Igor Shesterkin, Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers, Meet_The_Matts

So let us look ahead to the 2021-22 season, when hopefully things will be back to normal. If Miller can grow, a stellar top four would be in place on the back end with Fox, Lindgren, Trouba and Miller. They’ll have to decide what to do with Tony Deangelo, whose basically becoming a power play specialist. Hajek could have a spot on the third pair and Lundqvist might be ready by then.

Up front they’ll have Panarin, Mika, Kreider, Kaapo, Chytil, Kravtsov, and Lafrenière. That’s a puck ton of skill. If they round it out with role players with some grit, you have the makings of a really exciting team.

The big question is my mind is if these kids gel quickly enough, while Artemi is still in his prime, for the Blueshirts to morph into a big time contender.

It’s been a roller coaster week for the Rangers. Now it’s a race to see how fast their young players can develop. It’s an exciting time for the team and the future looks bright. I’m grateful for that stupid little lottery ball. Speaking of roller coasters, come back tomorrow for Angry Ward, who carries Wild lottery balls in his shorts.

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About the Author ()

Ben Whitney comes from journalistic stock. Aside from his brothers, rumor has that his great-great grandfather was the youngest brother of Eli Whitney and covered the earliest "rounders" games. Big Ben is also another New York Rugby Club player/pal of Different Matt, Short Matt and Junoir Blaber. He likes film noir discussions, has twin girls and took up ice hockey after retiring from rugby.

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