I am a New York Rangers fan. I don’t hide that fact from readers. It’s also the reason why I feel like I have to defend Alexis Lafreniere.
Chosen first overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, Lafreniere has been a topic of conversation even before ever skating a shift for the Rangers. That’s because he came into the league during the pandemic at a time when interest in the overall hobby skyrocketed. Sal and Tim tackled this very topic on the Puck Junk Podcast back in March 2021, during Lafreniere’s rookie season.
Three years later, there’s still debate over whether Lafreniere is a bust or has yet to come into his own. I choose to argue the latter. Let me explain.
Many non-hockey collectors looking to make a quick buck quickly lost their patience when Lafreniere’s rookie season wasn’t what they had expected. But Lafreniere could never live up to the hype placed on him and the ridiculous prices his Young Guns card was selling for when it was first released ($600 out of the gate on eBay) as part of 2020-21 Series 1.
Much of the hype formed years ago. As a junior player, Lafreniere won the 2018 and 2020 World Junior Championships with Canada. Lafeniere was named the tournament MVP in 2020 after tallying four goals and six assists in five games. Those performances drew comparisons to Sidney Crosby.
Lafreniere is still young (he turns 22 this coming October) and can still blossom into a superstar – but the haters have handed down their verdict. Those who hyped and chased Luis Robert in baseball and Luka Doncic in basketball – both with some success I should add – gave up on Lafreniere. Those who came into the hobby during the Covid years looking for a quick flip on Lafreniere were doomed to be disappointed.
The Rangers are a team loaded with talent at the moment and Lafreniere is just one piece of a larger puzzle. Look at Clayton Keller of the Phoenix Coyotes. His Young Guns card was issued during the 2017-18 season – but only this season has he emerged as a potential superstar. It could take a few more seasons for Lafreniere to reach the maturity level needed to succeed in the NHL.
Lafreniere’s NHL debut happened 30 years after Eric Lindros, but there are parallels. Lindros also entered the league with plenty of hype – the type some have argued he never lived up to. Lindros was supposed to be the next Gretzky – just like Lafreniere was billed as a successor to Connor McDavid.
As a result, Lafreniere’s cards – from his Young Guns to his numbered inserts to his autographs/patches – are all fairly affordable. This makes Lafreniere a very good buy on the eve of the playoffs.
The recent release of the 2020-21 edition of The Cup is interesting for its timing. It’s a delayed product due to the pandemic and the production issues tied to it. There’s less speculation than usual since we all know Kirill Kaprizov is a great rookie card to chase.
That means Lafreniere’s cards from The Cup are cheaper than they would normally be had this set come out during his rookie season. Lafreniere’s Future Watch auto (#/999) card is stuck at around $600. Compare that to Kaprizov’s Future Watch auto (#/999) that’s selling for over $2,000.
I made a recent eBay purchase of a Lafreniere card from The Cup as part of the “Rookie Foundations” subset. I got it for $99 — a steal for such a wonderful card that is only numbered to 99 — and it features a game-worn patch.
Meanwhile, Lafreniere’s aforementioned Young Guns rookie card is hovering around $120, which makes it a great buy at the moment. His second Young Guns card, that appeared in Series 2, is even cheaper at $60 to $75.
The other Lafreniere card from his rookie season that I really love is from the Skybox Metal Universe set. He’s even featured on the box for that release, yet his Base SP Rookie card can be had for under $20.
Through March, Lafreniere has played in 74 games, recording 15 goals and 22 assists. These are respectable numbers — especially for a player on a team with lots of great players like Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox and, more recently, Patrick Kane.
Don’t sleep on Lafreniere. He could have a really solid postseason. The Rangers could even win their first Stanley Cup since 1994. If all that happens, expect not just Lafreniere’s cards to jump in value, but also what most people think of him.
Clemente Lisi is a lifelong Rangers fan who first started collecting cards in 1986. He collects both vintage and modern with a focus on rookie cards. Follow him on Twitter @ClementeLisi.