By Warren Kozireski —
Alex Lafreniere became the second, first-overall selection in New York Rangers history s expected and later they traded up with Calgary to the 19th overall pick where they took offensive defenseman Braden Schneider, who led Brandon (WHL) in defensive scoring in 2019-20.
“It was something special for me and my family, so we are all really excited,” Lafreniere said in a post -selection Zoom interview. “It’s an honor and a big day in my life. It was an honor for me when I heard my name. I’ve never been to New York and I don’t know when it’s (a visit) is going to be—hopefully in the next few months.
“Growing up you dream of being drafted, and to go first is an honor. I think physically I got a lot stronger and I can create some scoring chances. I’ll keep getting ready and, when we, start, I’ll try to make a difference.”
The left wing led all QMJHL skaters in assists and points in 2019-20 with 35-77—112 in 52 games and was named MVP and Best Forward at the 2020 World Junior Championship, where he helped Team Canada win gold.
He was also named CHL and QMJHL Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive season in 2019-20, making him the first back-to-back winner of each award since Sidney Crosby (2003-04 to 2004-05);
Lafreniere becomes the first Quebec-born player selected No. 1 overall since Marc-Andre Fleury in 2003 and the first skater from Quebec to be taken with the first pick since another Oceanic alumnus: Vincent Lecavalier in 1998.
The marks the second time in history the Rangers have made the first overall selection in NHL Draft. The other was Andre Veilleux in 1965.
With their second selection in the first round (22nd overall)—acquired from Carolina in the Brady Skjei deal—the Rangers traded up with Calgary and added to their stable of defense prospects with Schneider from Brandon.
The 6’2”, 202 lbs. right shot led Wheat Kings defensemen and ranked fifth on his team overall with 7-35—42 in 60 contests in 2019-20. Internationally, he helped Team Canada win gold at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and represented his country at the 2019 Under-18 World Championship (2-1—3 in 7 GP).
“I’m a two-way, physical defenseman who takes pride in my own end and will punish you if I can, Schneider said via Zoom.
“I don’t see it (first round or trading up to select) as pressure. It shows that I left a good impression and that they think I can come in and help the organization,” Schneider said.
“I had my family, my billet family and my agent with me to celebrate and I can’t wait to meet the Rangers organization.
The Rangers traded their first (22nd) and third (72nd) round draft picks this year to Calgary to move up three spots to select Schneider.