Prior to this season, of the 15 times there had been an MVP chosen at the world juniors, only twice had it been won by a draft-eligible player. The first was John Tavares (2009) and the second was Jesse Puljujarvi (2016). So, there’s that.
Lafreniere became the third to do it, and in doing so, he turned a two- or three-horse race for No. 1 overall in the draft into a predetermined coronation. What the hockey world saw at the WJC is what scouts have been seeing for years. “He’s basically an NHL player right now playing junior hockey,” said one scout. “He has the size, hockey sense, competitiveness, strength…there’s nothing lacking in his game.”
Being a late birthday who has played three seasons in the QMJHL, Lafreniere might be the only player in the draft who’s ready to step into the NHL next season. He averaged more than a point per game in major junior at 16. But expectations must be managed, both in the short and long term. “He’s not going to be a superstar, but he’s going to be a star,” said another scout. “He’s going to be a player who can do so many different things in a game.”
BEST CASE | Jonathan Huberdeau
This excerpt is from The Hockey News’ Draft Preview issue. Purchase a digital copy of the issue here.