Rangers select Quebec’s Alexis Lafrenière with No. 1 pick in pandemic-delayed NHL draft

FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2020, file photo, Team White left winger Alexis Lafreniere smiles following hockey's CHL Top Prospects Game in Hamilton, Ontario. The Quebec native was landed by the New York Rangers as this year's number one draft pick. Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020. Peter Power/The Canadian Press via AP, File

The New York Rangers have selected Alexis Lafrenière with the first pick in the NHL’s pandemic-delayed draft.

The star winger from the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League registered 35 goals and 112 points in 52 games in 2019-20 before the season was cancelled because of COVID-19.

Lafrenière, who led Canada to gold at the 2020 world junior hockey championship, was NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater and long-viewed as the consensus choice at No. 1.

Set to turn 19 on Sunday, Lafrenière is coming off back-to-back Canadian Hockey League’s player of the year awards, following fellow Rimouski captain Sidney Crosby in 2004 and 2005.

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The NHL draft, which was originally scheduled for June 26 and 27 in Montreal, is being held remotely via video conference because of the pandemic.

Lafrenière, a native of St-Eustache, Que., didn’t get the normal thrill of walking up on stage in front of friends, family and adoring fans not far from his hometown inside the Bell Centre, but is still the first Quebec-born skater to hear his name called at No. 1 since Vincent Lecavalier in 1998.

Lafrenière also is the first Canadian to go at No. 1 since the Edmonton Oilers selected Connor McDavid in 2015.

Meanwhile, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association they are targeting Jan. 1, 2021 as the start date for the next season.

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