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NHL’s top draft prospect staying patient amid uncertainty

by Ace Damon
NHL's top draft prospect staying patient amid uncertainty

Alexis Lafrenière could never have imagined the end of his prolific junior hockey career in such an anticlimactic setting.

There was no final beep, and the top projected perspective of the NHL was nowhere near an ice rink on Wednesday. Lafrenière was sitting at home in the Montreal suburb, opening a conference call with reporters, thanking his teammates, coaches and Rimouski Oceanic fans for their support over the past three years.

Any chance of completing his season in the Quebec Major Junior League or competing in the playoffs for a chance to make it to the Memorial Cup tournament was eliminated this week after the Canadian Junior Hockey decision to cancel the match because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It was certainly difficult news for me and the whole team," said the 18-year-old left winger.

"I think we had a great team this year and we believe that we could do something special for sure," added Lafrenière. "It's a little sad. But we have to make sure that everyone is doing their best to stay healthy.”

The uncertainty will continue in the coming months, with no clear indication of how the pandemic will affect the project schedule, which, for now, is still scheduled to be held in Montreal in late June.

It was a weekend that was expected to be Lafrenière's launch party, as he is from Saint-Eustache, a half-hour drive from the project site, the Canadians' Bell Center.

With the NHL season postponed indefinitely and the likelihood of the play's growth not resuming until this summer, there is a chance that the draft will be conducted over the phone, without the usual spectacle of players taking the stage in front of a crowded arena.

"For sure, if the draft is online, it will be different for us," said Lafrenière. "But we will still enjoy our time and we will still be happy there."

An Oceanic player, Sidney Crosby, was first selected by Pittsburgh in 205, the last time the draft was not open to the public after the 2004-05 season was eliminated by the NHL blockade.

At six feet tall, Lafrenière consistently leads the list of eligible prospects on the NHL observation bureau.

When the game ended, he led the QMJHL with 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) in 52 games. He was the league's debutant in 2017-18, when he scored 42 goals – the highest number since Crosby scored 54 in 2003-04.

Overall, Lafrenière has 114 goals and 183 assists by 297 points in 173 games. In January, he was the captain of Canada's gold medal winning team and won MVP honors in the junior world championship.

For now, his performance in the world tournament, where he had five goals and five assists, despite losing two games with a knee injury, will remain Lafrenière's decisive moment and, a year after Canada was eliminated in the quarterfinals. Final.

"When you dream about it," he said. "To come back this year and be able to win that, I think it was certainly a great moment for my career so far."

Like the NHL season, the pandemic has put the draft process in limbo. It is not clear when the annual sweepstakes draw, normally scheduled for mid-April, will occur or whether changes will be made to the determination of the sweepstakes order.

In the past, the order of service among the 15 non-playoff teams was determined by lottery balls, with the team with the worst record receiving the best chances of winning the first choice.

Although the season is incomplete, the Detroit Red Wings had already secured 31st place with a record of 17-49-5 and 39 points, 23 behind Ottawa. Only six points separate Ottawa and Buffalo, which occupies the 25th position.

Lafrenière welcomed the possibilities when asked specifically to play in Detroit or Ottawa.

For now, he is doing his best to stay in shape by working from home.

If there is a benefit to his season being canceled, it is the chance to spend more time with his family – something Lafrenière was unable to do due to his demanding hockey schedule.

"It is easier to be sure that I am with them and that I am at home," said Lafrenière. "And I can stay here to wait until everything is ready."


For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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