The Rangers own the first overall selection in this year’s NHL Draft and that pick on Tuesday night is expected to be 18 year old left wing Alexis Lafreniere from the Rimouski Oceanic in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Saint-Eustache, Quebec native is ranked number one among North American skaters and this past season he totaled 35 goals and a league leading 77 assists for a league leading 112 points in 52 games.
While Lafreniere is expected to have a major impact on a young and talented Rangers team that lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round, he is also going to have a huge impact on the trading card and memorabilia business. Lafreniere was already signed to an exclusive trading card and memorabilia deal with Upper Deck in March of 2019.
“It just goes to show what we think of this kid and his talent that he’s shown through “The Q” (QMJHL) and on Team Canada and obviously just now starting on his NHL journey,” said Paul Zickler, Sports Brand Manager for Upper Deck. “He’s proved that he’s an elite player and just to have him in the Upper Deck family is really exciting to us.”
Lafreniere was the first overall pick in the 2017 QMJHL season and scored 42 goals during his rookie campaign, the most goals scored by a rookie since Sidney Crosby in 2004. He was selected to play on Team Canada for the 2018 Gretzky Cup in Edmonton and the 2020 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic. Lafreniere is known for being a nifty puck-carrier, attacking the net, and scoring goals from the “dirty areas”. He has the ability to dominate games and he’s projected by experts to be a 50-60 point player in his rookie NHL season.
And he’s excited about the possibility of being a New York Ranger.
“The Rangers are a really big organization and really good team…really good young team,” said Lafreniere during an NHL Zoom meeting with reporters back on September 24th. “We’ll see what happens, but it’s a really exciting time for sure.”
Rangers Have The Golden Ticket:
This year, with the Rangers having the first overall pick, it really is the perfect storm for the team and for Upper Deck.
It’s not often when a player of Lafreniere’s talent is available to a major market team with the first overall pick. In fact, only five of the last ten first overall picks were Canadian-born players. The last Canadian born player to go first overall was Connor McDavid by the Edmonton Oilers in 2015. Also, given how the NHL Draft Lottery was conducted this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first phase of the lottery resulted in the first overall pick being held for one of the teams that lost in the qualifying round.
That team wound up being the Rangers and not a team like the Detroit Red Wings that finished the regular season with an NHL low 39 points or even other non-postseason teams like New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings.
“It’s very rare that you get a marquee Canadian player in a big United States market and we don’t have a lot of history of being that lucky but this year those stars are aligning again,” said Zickler. “I think you can start with the Rangers being an Original Six franchise and Madison Square Garden, obviously their cup run in 1994 and Gretzky, Messier…the heritage just runs really deep with that franchise.”
It Won’t Take Long For Rangers Fans To Get A Lafreniere Rookie Card:
As part of the excitement surrounding the NHL Draft, Upper Deck is going to be releasing a set of e-cards including Lafreniere and other top draft picks once the selections are made on Tuesday night. Fans get register to receive the free set of e-cards by registering at www.UpperDeckEpack.com. Lafreniere’s multi-year agreement with Upper Deck also gives the company exclusive rights to produce trading cards and memorabilia with authentic Lafreniere autographs.
Lafreniere joins a pretty special group of athletes that are already affiliated with Upper Deck.
“As most Upper Deck fans and consumers know, our spokespeople are part of a very special group from Michael Jordan to Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Tiger Woods…and we have welcomed Alexis into that family,” said Zickler.
More importantly for Rangers fans, Lafreniere joins a Blueshirt family that could be on the verge of something special. The Rangers made great strides in the second half of the regular season and they are poised to take another step next season with a strong mix of youth and veteran players. It’s pretty rare that a team like the Rangers would be in a position to have the first overall pick and add a player like Lafreniere to the mix.
“They’re a young team but they do have some skill veteran forwards with (Artemi) Panarin and (Mika) Zibanejad but a lot of the other players are young like Kaapo (Kakko) and Adam Fox on defense,” said Zickler. “They’re a good team so it’s pretty rare that a first overall pick is going to such a good team on the rise. Where the team is positioned, Lafreniere is going to get a good role on the team right off the bat and can get some meaningful ice time.”
A Pick Too Good To Pass Up For The Rangers:
When a team, in any sport, is in possession of the first overall pick in a draft, it’s inevitable that other teams are going to call and inquire about making a trade. But in this case, it certainly looks like the Rangers are going to keep that pick and bring Lafrieniere to Broadway.
That means that Rangers fans are going to be clamoring for some of that Lafreniere memorabilia from Upper Deck.
“With all of the signs pointing to him being a consensus number one, it’s really a testament to the hard work that he’s put in, “said Zickler.
Had this been a normal year, the NHL Draft would have taken place this past June in Montreal. Commissioner Gary Bettman would have started the proceedings by saying that the Rangers have the first pick in the draft and the Blueshirts would be on the clock. At some point, the Rangers contingent would have made their way to the stage where President John Davison or General Manager Jeff Gorton would announce the first pick in the draft.
However, this year’s draft is going to be held virtually and remotely because of COVID-19 so it remains to be seen how things will work. But the expectation is that sometime after 7pm Eastern Time on Tuesday night, the Rangers are going to make Alexis Lafreniere the first overall pick in the draft and Lafreniere will subsequently be a big part of the Blueshirts as well as the Upper Deck family.
He has a chance to be one of the bright young stars in hockey while also having a big impact on the trading card and memorabilia industry.