Preface to His Own Path To Greatness
The high soaring Rimouski Oceanic and rebuilding Moncton Wildcats were about to do battle in the first round of the 2018 President Cup Playoffs when I had the opportunity to meet and interview Alexis Lafreniere.
It was the 3rd place team vs 14th place team.
Both teams would find out very quickly that anything can happen come playoff time.
I was on the broadcast that night and interviewed Alexis before the game.
The interview went very well and the Oceanic would go on to win the game.
I had been writing for the league that year as well, so when I asked to interview Alexis after the game it was met with some resistance.
I will never forget the look on Serge Beausoleil’s face when I asked to talk to #11 after the game.
“You again,” he said.
I had no idea that the fiery coach was joking.
“No problem Craig,” he said.
My heart skipped like three beats that night. I wrote the article the next day and sent it to the league.
It never did get published.
With Lafreniere and the Oceanic rolling into town tomorrow I thought I would share it and some other articles from his amazing rookie season in the QMJHL.
His Own Path to Greatness
Alexis Lafreniere wants to blaze his own path in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The St-Eustache, PQ product is playing in the shadows of past Rimouski Océanic greats like Sidney Crosby, Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards.
The 2017 1st overall draft pick lived up to and surpassed the hype and high expectations surrounding his debut in the league. A matter of fact, Lafreniere didn’t waste any time rewriting the history books this season, eclipsing the forty-goal plateau at sixteen, the first player to do that since Crosby.
The young dynamic scorer credits unwavering family support, as well as quality coaching throughout his ascension in the game.
“Every coach that I had helped me a lot. When I was young it was my father, it’s because of them, that I’m here now,” confessed the young phenom.
“My family has made a lot of sacrifices. It’s a lot of money to play hockey ever since I was young, a lot of early mornings, time in the rinks and travel.”
“I’m really thankful for my family, they have helped me a lot,” said the soft-spoken 16 year-old star.
Lafreniere understood all the attention surrounding his arrival into the league, but has tried to remain focused on just playing the game he loves.
“I’ve just tried to work hard in practice and in games. There’s attention for sure, but the team has done a great job with me, I try to focus, play hockey and have fun with my teammates,” explained Lafrenière
Lafreniere excelled this season and made the transition into the QMJHL with relative ease, amassing 80 points (42 goals 38 Assists) in 60 games.
Most young skilled forwards who enter the league would rely solely on their talent to propel them at the next level, that couldn’t be farther from the truth when discussing Rimouski’s young star.
Lafreniere worked tremendously hard last summer to be fully prepared both mentally and physically for the rigors of the league. The young star gained eight to ten pounds of muscle before making his Q debut. “Last summer was big for me, I trained with older guys, they wanted me to be ready for this season.”
“Every time you are the ice you have to work, if not, a lot of guys are going to make you pay,” confessed Lafreniere.
“It’s men on the ice, it’s not like Midget with all young guys, you need to be ready every shift and compete hard, mentally and physically,” stressed Lafreniere.
The highly touted 2020 NHL Draft Prospect understands the importance of being a complete player moving forward.
“You need to better without the puck at this level. In Midget you just try to get the puck and go up offensively, but here in the Q you play against really good players so if you don’t care about defence they will score and you will be a minus,” Lafrenière said.
“You need to take care of your D zone and then you can go in the O zone and have fun,” confessed Lafrenière with a rye smile.
Rimouski has had its share of high profile young super stars throughout its storied history that have gone onto NHL greatest. Lafreniere is quick to downplay any self-imposed comparisons. “I’m thinking about my game and the present,” Lafreniere said.
“There have been some great players here, but I’m trying to make my way, and try to do what I do well on the ice, that’s what’s going to help me,” added Lafreniere
The sky is the limit for Lafreniere and a Rimouski Océanic team, which boasts one of best young core groups in league. Lafreniere is embracing the opportunity to play with the franchise for two more seasons.
“I’m excited to be in Rimouski for the next couple of years, we have a lot of young players that are going to get better and better over the years, it’s just the beginning for us,” stressed Lafreniere.
Game 7 Loss and Shadow Company
Former Moncton Wildcat Dylan Seitz has never been intimidated by the larger moments that the games presents; nevertheless, his job in the 2018 President Cup Playoffs was certainly unfamiliar territory.
Former Moncton Wildcats bench boss and current Shawinigan Cateractes Asst. Coach Darren Rumble, identified Seitz as the perfect candidate to shadow hockey’s next superstar Alexis Lafreniere.
The Rimouski Oceanic scoring sensation entered the 2018 playoffs on an ultimate high.
If the Wildcats were going to win and upset the high flying Oceanic they had to shut down the young phenom.
“Honestly, I didn’t even know what to expect when I was asked to do it at the time,” confessed Seitz.
“I never even heard of shadowing someone or ever saw it done before, so it was all new to me, but there’s nothing I embrace more than a challenge.”
“Obviously, I was all for it.”
The duo’s battle became the talk of the series. So what was said, how heated did really get on and off the ice? “I won’t say anything specific on what we said to each other, but it was a hard nose series and I have nothing but respect for Alexis.”
“With him being only sixteen at the time and taking all that from me for seven games must of been pretty annoying when you’re trying to play a hockey game.”
“Alexis is an exceptional player and most people compare him to the next Sidney Crosby and I can see it as well. He will be the 1st overall pick in the NHL this year because you can just see it in his work ethic and the amount of skill he has and dedication to be the best player on the ice every night.”
The Moncton Wildcats beat the 3rd place overall Oceanic in Game 7.
The Wildcats victory turns out to be one of the largest upsets in the QMJHL history. Seitz and Lafreniere actually met after the series to discuss their odd experience.
“After the playoffs ended that year, I actually had a chance to catch up with Alexis off the ice. We had a nice long conversation, he did tell me he couldn’t stand me during the series.”
“He said that I was good at what I was doing. I returned the favor telling him he was an exceptional player and wished him best of luck in the future.”
“I have nothing but respect for him and wish him nothing but the best moving forward,” the former Wildcat said.
Unfortunately Dylan Seitz’ days in the QMJHL ended when Jeremy McKenna decided to return to the Moncton Wildcats last October.
Seitz is now playing at the USports Level with the high powered UNB Red’s.
A Special Person and Player: A Look Back here’s my 2017 Scouting Report on Alexis Lafreniere
I wrote this report following the QMJHL Combine, in preparation for the 2017 QMJHL Draft coverage for Rogers TV. I was blown away with Lafreniere’s hockey sense and awareness on the ice during the Combine that April in Blainville.
Over the course of the four-day tournament Lafreniere and 2nd overall selection Samuel Poulin excelled. It’s always interesting to look back at your notes on a player. Obviously, Lafreniere is a special player everyone could see that at 15, but it’s his ability to adapt and adjust to the QMJHL so quickly shows just how special he truly is.
Alexis Lafreniere 6” 171 (W/C)
The sky is the limit for Lafreniere.
The native of St-Eustache PQ, combines high-end speed, with creativity and individual skill that instantly makes people around him better.
Lafreniere, six-feet 169 pounds is a dynamic player, and his ability to make complex plays at top speed makes him a very dangerous player off the rush.
It’s Lafreniere’s skill, vision and play making ability that have him as the consensus first overall pick.
It also doesn’t hurt that he will be in the league for a mandated three seasons due to a late birthday. The speedy cerebral center uses all his attributes to generate offensive pressure every time he steps on the ice.
The 15-year-old possesses great agility, balance and break away speed. He doesn’t back down from the physical side of the game when competing for loose pucks in all three zones and has a very active stick.
In my opinion, Lafreniere will slot in as a number two center at the start of the 2017-18 season and will be that team’s first line center before the Christmas break. Lafreniere’s skills are comparable to that of Halifax star Swiss import Nico Hischier. His ability to get to the quiet areas of the ice offensively and ability to spot the open man makes him an offensive threat and future power play specialist.
Lafreniere has a solid accurate release, but will have to work on getting his shot off quicker if he wants to score at a similar clip as the Midget ranks. His determination and ability to elevate his game and adjust to any challenge directed his way sets him far above those within this year’s draft. He possesses a solid two-way game and is a defensively responsible player who is very accountable in all three zones.
He will inevitably have to work on the defensive side of the puck next season as a 16-year -old center, but will adapt quickly to the rigors of that position.
Lafreniere is multi-dimensional players who will excel in the QMJHL and make the team that selects him instantly better.
The world’s best comes to Moncton tomorrow!