Detroit Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman touched on numerous topics during a rare news conference. Filmed Feb. 24, 2020 in Detroit.
Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Red Wings are due a stroke of luck, and they are due a change in fortune.
Alexis Lafrenière could deliver on both.
The Wings locked up a last-place finish to the 2019-20 season on March 10, two days before the NHL shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. The league is mulling holding the draft in June even though that means sorting out everything from draft order to conditional picks. If that happens, and the league reverts back to its previous draft lottery format, then the Wings would pick no worse than second overall.
Under the current format of the draft lottery, they could pick anywhere from first to fourth. The Wings have been bumped back in three straight draft lotteries, from seventh to ninth (2017), fifth to sixth (2018) and fourth to sixth (2019).
The prize of the draft is Lafrenière, a 6-foot-1, 192-pound left wing who had 35 goals and 77 assists in 52 games this season with Rimouski Océanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, a 2.15 points-per-game average that led the Canadian Hockey League. The 18-year-old starred for Canada at the World Juniors, taking home a gold medal and MVP honors on the strength of four goals and six assists in five games.
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Lafrenière scored 42 goals for Rimouski in 2017-18, becoming the first 16-year-old to reach 40 goals since Sidney Crosby in 2003-04.
Lafrenière combines elite decision-making skills with a physical edge, fearlessly challenging opponents and finishing checks. He makes plays and scores, and has drawn praise for his willingness to go to dirty areas. Lafrenière projects as a game-changer, someone the Wings badly need to boost their rebuild.
If Lafrenière can make the jump to the NHL as soon as next season, it’s hard to think the Wings wouldn’t improve on the league-worst 2.00 goals-per-game they averaged in 2019-20. Lafrenière would add the depth needed to field two scoring lines, joining fellow rebuilding blocks in Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Zadina and veteran Valtteri Filppula. He also would add a scoring threat to the power play, too, which finished 29th at 14.9%.
The Wings have chosen first three times, selecting Claude Gauthier in 1964, Dale McCourt in 1977, and Joe Murphy in 1986. Gauthier never played in the NHL, and McCourt was part of the “Dead Wings” era in the late 1970s, logging 341 of his 532 career NHL games in a Detroit uniform.
Murphy’s story arc has taken a tragic turn, but he came to the Wings fresh off an NCAA championship with Michigan State and helped the Wings’ then-farm team, Adirondack, win the 1989 Calder Cup. Murphy struggled to find a foothold on a center depth chart that boasted Steve Yzerman and Adam Oates, and only played 90 of his 779 NHL games in a Detroit uniform.
On Nov. 2, 1989, the Wings, eager to rid themselves of Petr Klima after years of alcohol-related issues, included Murphy in a blockbuster deal with Edmonton that landed the Wings Jimmy Carson. Murphy won the Stanley Cup with the Oilers in 1990, and stuck around the NHL until 2001, finishing his career with the Washington Capitals.
As of August, Murphy was reported to be homeless in Kenora, Ontario, and refusing help.