Likely No. 1 pick Alexis Lafreniere calls Red Wings 'great organization,' Veleno reunion 'fun'
Detroit — Alexis Lafreniere is the likely No. 1 overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft.
But when exactly the draft lottery will be held (originally April 9), whether the draft will be held in Montreal as planned (June 26-27) and simply being able to train properly for it, Lafreniere is as stumped as anyone.
There are a lot of questions and not many answers these days.
“I really live it day by day and try to control what I can control,” Lafreniere said Wednesday during a teleconference with North American hockey writers. “For sure, the most important thing for everyone is stay healthy and we try to come back as soon as possible. Live day by day and stay home.
“There are some things you can’t really control. You have to stay focused on yourself and try to do your stuff.”
Red Wings fans — and likely the organization — are hoping the lottery balls fall just the right way for the Wings, who had the NHL’s worst record when the season paused due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Lafreniere was brief when asked about the possibility of joining the Wings, though it would be exciting.
“I know it’s a great organization,” said Lafreniere, when asked about his familiarity of the Wings’ organization. “A lot of good players have played there.”
But there is a link to the Wings’ organization that excites Lafreniere.
For the past two world junior tournaments, representing Canada, Lafreniere and Joe Veleno, a 2018 first-round draft pick currently playing in Grand Rapids, were linemates and developed a friendship off the ice.
The two young players talked about the possibility of playing together again in the future with the Wings.
“I know Joe from playing with him two times in juniors,” said Lafreniere, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound winger (Veleno’s a center). “He’s my good friend now. For sure it would be fun to play with him (in the NHL).”
Though the Wings, given the current standings, have an 18.5% of having the No. 1 overall pick, they actually don’t have the best odds.
Ottawa has the second worst record and second-best odds (13.5%), and also own San Jose’s first-round pick. The Sharks, incidentally, have the third-worst record and 11.5% chance of landing the first overall pick.
So, the Senators has a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick.
And, incidentally, Lafreniere’s hometown of Saint-Eustache is less than a two-hour drive from Ottawa.
“It would be fun, it would be special for sure,” said Lafreniere of being drafted by Ottawa. “It’s a great place to play, a lot of good players, it would be an honor for sure.
“We’ll see what happens.”
The entry draft itself has yet to be postponed or scaled back to a teleconference version. Still, it appears highly unlikely it’ll be held on a larger scale in Montreal, again, a relatively short drive from Lafreniere hometown.
“For sure it would be a little different,” said Lafreniere of not having the joy of hearing his name drafted, walking across the stage to shake hands with commissioner Gary Bettman, and put on his new team’s sweater and cap. “But it’s still an honor to get drafted by an NHL team. It’s really special. Maybe it’ll be different, we don’t know yet, but I’m living day by day and we’ll see what happens.”
Lafreniere feels he’s done all he can to be the No. 1 overall pick. This season at Rimouski Oceanic (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League), Lafreniere had 112 points (35 goals, 77 assists) in 52 games with a plus-41 rating.
Lafreniere added 10 points (four goals, six assists) in five games for Canada, helping lead it to the gold medal.
“I tried my best to play as good as I could every game I was in,” Lafreniere said. “There are some real good players around the world, so you never know who will go (where), but I tried my best to play as good as I could.”
So what does the prospective No. 1 overall NHL draft pick do these days of quarantine and staying indoors?
Pretty similar like the rest of us, it sounds like.
Lafreniere is working out at home, and spending time with his family, which is something he couldn’t do as much as he’d liked the past two seasons with the regular season, playoffs and junior tournaments.
“You don’t have as much to do (staying home) but I’m training, working out at my house a couple hours a day,” Lafreniere said. “I have some equipment to train (with) and I try to stay in shape and just try to work as hard as I can, gain some strength for when we're going to come back and I'll be ready.
"After that, I spend time with my family. It’s a good time for us to spend time together. It’s always fun to be at home and spend time with them. It’s not fun right now with the virus, but it’s easier for sure when I’m with them and I can stay here.
“(We) just talk, watch television and movies together, and share dinner. Little things like that.”
The province of Quebec has been one of the hardest hit in terms of the coronavirus, but Lafreniere's immediate family and circle of friends have been fortunate, not testing positive.
"We've been pretty lucky," Lafreniere said. "We're going to try to keep it like this."