Alexis Lafreniere
ESNY Graphic

The NHL’s potential 2020 No. 1 overall draft pick, Alexis Lafreniere, could transform the New Jersey Devils into an “all-world” hockey team. 

Kyle McKenna

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and, of course, this sentiment stretches to the hockey world.

We’re not even talking about the professionals skating in the NHL, yet. Thursday, Dec. 26, marked the opening games for the 2020 World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic and none of the contests disappointed.

Let’s focus on Canada taking down Team USA in entertaining fashion after the squad North of the Border won 6-4. Better yet, let’s turn our attention to the potential No. 1 overall selection at this summer’s 2020 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal, Quebec.

Who is that?

Hockey Canada’s, Alexis Lafreniere.

The 18-year-old didn’t disappoint on Thursday afternoon when Lafreniere led Canada over Team USA with four points while netting one goal. The winger proved just how electric he is and the 6-foot-1 skater seemed to portray a sixth-sense that was arguably scary at times with his ability to create scoring chances for Canada.

Here is a bigger question (and thought)…

What does Lafreniere have to do with the New Jersey Devils?

A lot.

The Devils are on the verge of having another legitimate shot at winning the NHL’s Draft Lottery for the first overall selection, again. If New Jersey did win the lottery pick, it would mark the third time in the past four years that general manager Ray Shero earned the league’s first overall selection.

The team received the honors of selecting Nico Hischier (Switzerland) in 2017 and then Jack Hughes (United States) this past offseason with the first pick. Having an opportunity to draft a rare talent such as Lafreniere arguably makes the Devils an “all-world” team, though.

The trio of No. 1 overall picks would offer different skill assets that would improve the Devils’ offensive attack, whether that’s at even strength, down a skater or on the power-play. Hischier offers the two-way and humble play, which would complement a smooth and silky offensive talent such as Lafreniere. Hsichier’s work ethic in all three zones and along the boards can’t be overlooked, either.

Believe it or not, Lafreniere could pan out to be a more productive point-producer for the Devils than Hughes. The Saint-Eustache, QC native was arguably more challenged and tested by his 18th birthday than Hughes was entering their draft year.

Lafreniere has skated with the Rimouski Océanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) since 2017-18 and is on the verge of completing his second U20 WJC with Hockey Canada. His exposures and such high levels would naturally prepare him to excel at the NHL level and probably sooner than what Hughes has displayed during his rookie campaign.

Hughes, on the other hand, skated in one U20 WJC while skating with the United States Development Program for two stints. That doesn’t necessarily weaken Hughes’s potential; but again, it’s another perspective and different exposure added to a potential dynamic trio on offense.

Think about the three different playing styles Hischier, Hughes and Lafreniere would offer for New Jersey. Those youngsters certainly add a unique dimension and depth on offense that the Devils haven’t experienced in over two decades; a top playmaker, goal-scorer and two way forward to bring the necessary balance to stay consistent and discipline upfront.

Let’s not forget about the blueliners also playing at the 2020 WJC with Canada in Ty Smith and Kevin Bahl – establishing another case for New Jersey to transform into an All-World team in the blink of an eye.

Well, maybe it has been a painful past few seasons or more…

Those five skaters entail the two centers, two defensemen and one winger. Talk about spreading the wealth, no?

Kyle McKenna is a freelancer who covers the NHL for Elite Sports New York, Hooked On Hockey Magazine & Fansided. Follow him on Twitter @KMcKenna_tLT5 and use the hashtag #McKennasDigest to have your NHL questions featured in an article or answered over his weekly NHL podcast.