Lafreniere, top 2020 NHL Draft prospect, named CHL Player of the Year

Alexis Lafreniere, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, won the Canadian Hockey League David Branch Player of the Year Award on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-1, 193-pound left wing with Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is the second player in CHL history to win the award in consecutive seasons, joining former Rimouski captain and current Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby in 2004 and 2005. They are the only players to win the award twice.

“I’m really honored to have won the David Branch trophy for the CHL MVP,” Lafreniere said. “I would like to thank my teammates, coaches and all the organization in Rimouski for what they’ve done for me. I wouldn’t be here without them, so a big thanks to everyone.”

The other two other finalists for the award were Ottawa (Ontario Hockey League) center Marco Rossi, No. 6 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters, and Spokane (Western Hockey League) forward Adam Beckman, who was selected in the third round (No. 73) by the Minnesota Wild in the 2019 NHL Draft.

It’s the fifth major award for Lafreniere, No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters. He won the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the leading scorer in the QMJHL with 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists), the Paul Dumont Trophy as QMJHL personality of the year, the Michel Briere Trophy as the most valuable player in the QMJHL and the CHL Top Draft Prospect of the Year Award.

“Alexis has the ability to beat you wide with speed but also to slow down the play to create some space for himself and make plays,” said J-F Damphousse of NHL Central Scouting. “He’s a really smart player, his hockey IQ is at the highest level possible, and he also competes really hard. He’s not a finesse guy who only relies on his overall skills, but he hits and finishes checks.

“I wasn’t scouting when Crosby was in Rimouski but I know you got that feeling that something special was going to happen every time he was on the ice. Alexis is the same way.”

Lafreniere also was named most valuable player at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship after he scored 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games to help Canada win the tournament. 

He could be the third QMJHL player to be selected No. 1 in the NHL draft in eight years, joining Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (2013, Halifax) and New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (2017, Halifax).

The 2020 draft was scheduled for June 26-27 at Bell Centre in Montreal but was postponed March 25, as was the NHL Scouting Combine (June 1-6, Buffalo) and the NHL Awards (June 18, Las Vegas) because of the coronavirus. The first phase of the NHL Draft Lottery will be held June 26. No date for the 2020 draft has been set.

The CHL cancelled the remainder of its regular season, the playoffs and the Memorial Cup on March 23 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

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