Alexis Lafreniere, An Ottawa Senator After All?

HAMILTON, ON - JANUARY 16: Alexis Lafreniere #11 of Team White and Quinton Byfield #55 of Team Red following the final whistle of the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at FirstOntario Centre on January 16, 2020 in Hamilton, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
HAMILTON, ON - JANUARY 16: Alexis Lafreniere #11 of Team White and Quinton Byfield #55 of Team Red following the final whistle of the 2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at FirstOntario Centre on January 16, 2020 in Hamilton, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

According to a report by Lisa Dillman, an LA-based writer for the Athletic, there’s wide speculation within hockey that the Ottawa Senators are going to propose an offer to the New York Rangers for the 1st overall pick come October.

The NY Rangers won the most controversial NHL draft lottery Monday night and since then the speculation regarding a potential trade for that pick (and consensus #1 overall, Alexis Lafreniére) has heated up. Rangers GM Jeff Gorton himself addressed the potential for a trade and didn’t exactly extinguish any fires with his comments that preceded the lottery Monday night.

"“If I just went on this call and told you all the things we’re going to do, it probably doesn’t help me on the market when I make calls. We have to have more meetings and I like to play a little closer to the vest than announcing we’re going to go get centres or do something else.” Jeff Gorton, NYR GM"

A trade takes two sides however and the Ottawa Senators own more capital in this draft than any other team. In fact, Ottawa has more draft picks in prime locations in this draft than almost any other team in any other draft throughout the entire history of the NHL. To say that this draft is a tipping point in the Senators rebuild is a gross understatement. I sent out this tweet following Lisa Dillman’s article and Sens twitter took over from there.

Now comes the issue with this speculation from the mentioned Athletic report last week. According to Sportsnet’s “tell it like it is” hockey analyst, Brian Burke, the Ottawa Senators are speculated to offer up BOTH of their top 5 picks in this draft for the #1 selection. (I beg your pardon?)

"“The speculation up here is that Ottawa is going to offer 3 and 5 for number 1.” Brian Burke, Sportsnet"

Just a few short months ago there was still a debate over who the #1 overall pick should be, LW Alexis Lafreniére or Sudbury Wolves, 6’4 Centre, Quinton Byfield. Then enters German-born LW/Centre Tim Stützle into the conversation, who’s now widely ranked 2nd or 3rd by almost every professional scouting service. TSN’s very own, Bob Mackenzie was quoted recently saying this.

"“Byfield and Stützle both have a chance to impact the NHL at the same level as Lafreniére, if not go by him at some point.” Bob Mackenzie, TSN"

So, while Lafreniére remains the consensus top choice in a very loaded draft and I’d be utterly shocked if he’s not selected first overall come October, the competition for who the best player from the 2020 draft is, will remain a hot topic for years to come.

Despite some of the widespread media perception surrounding Alexis Lafreniére, this is not the type of Sydney Crosby draft where one player is far and away above his draft class. With Ottawa owning #3 and #5 (as well as an additional 1st round pick and 4, second-round picks) overall, it’s very possible that the Sens will in fact select a player as good or better than Alexis Lafreniére. I’m not suggesting Lafreniére is a bad player, in fact, I would absolutely choose him 1st overall without a second thought if I were in that position. The fact is, it’s a tight race and there’s a rather large disparity in age and stage of development with some of the top players available in the draft.

Lafreniére is without question the most NHL ready prospect available right now and also one of the oldest players eligible for the draft. In contrast, almost a full year younger, Quinton Byfield was only weeks away from being next year’s prize prospect. Although these two are in the same draft class, developmental trajectory is crucial when you analyze prospects. A year makes a world of difference when comparing young players and picking apart their games respectably. At 1.82 PPG this year in the OHL, Byfield’s production actually surpasses that of the 1.72 PPG Alexis Lafreniére posted during his draft -1 for Rimouski last season. Keeping in mind that these players are nearly a full year apart in age gives you an idea of just how far a young player can grow his game in one season. Lafreniére followed his draft -1 year with over 2 PPG this season in Rimouski. Byfield could very well put up similar totals this year in Sudbury if the team that drafts him decides to develop him in Junior.

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Again, there’s also Tim Stützle from Germany, who may be impossible to compare to these two from a sheer numbers perspective (playing in the DEL) but if you take into account what the scouts are saying about this kid, he’s been compared to Patrick Kane. He’s recently ascended the draft boards, thanks in large part to his ridiculous skills. He’s a multi-sport super athlete, who has a willingness to want the puck on his stick more than anyone I’ve seen before. If he can put all the tools together, he could also be in the running for the “best player in this draft.”

Oh and what about Cole Perfetti? Craig Button, Director of scouting, TSN ranked him 6/5 hockey sense.

Or Marco Rossi’s ability to make a play that leaves you thinking “what, where, who, how in the world did he see that guy from there?” Or Lucas Raymond, again extremely high skill set and a player not even close to reaching his full potential. The list goes on and on in this draft.

My final point is this. If Ottawa calls Jeff Gorton and offers up #3 and #5 as the “speculation” suggested, this would be an over payment of mass propositions. It could only mean one thing, one thing that’s hurt this team in the past and continues to remind us that the future of the team is only as bright as the guy who runs things around here, “money Melnyk.” If Ottawa trades their best hope of achieving multiple years of “unparalleled success” that the preacher himself promised this fan-base, it’s only due to the quick money that a french Canadian, soon to be star would make, from a pure marketing standpoint.

Stay the course, make the best decision for the longevity of success and make the two most impactful picks in this teams modern, franchise history.