“We haven’t felt this kind of response since Sidney,” the Oceanic owner Alex Tanguay said. “It’s a different kind of response, obviously with the social media and stuff, but you can definitely feel a vibe around him. Back then, if you wanted to see Sid play, you needed to drive down to Rimouski.
“Now in 2019, you can know what type of player Alexis is just by watching him on the internet or on TV. I guess it’s a different kind of response, but in a way the same vibe we felt almost 15 years ago.”
Any dominant 16-year-old hockey player naturally draws comparisons to Crosby, one of Canada’s most fabled native sons. But Lafreniere’s dominance has not been confined to the league colloquially known as “the Q.”
At the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, the top international tournament for players 17 and younger, Lafreniere tied for the scoring lead despite being the second-youngest player on his team. He sealed Canada’s tournament victory with two goals, including the winner, in the final against Sweden.
In December and January, he was the youngest player to compete at the International Ice Hockey Federation world junior championship, for players 20 and younger. In part because of injuries to other players, Lafreniere became the ninth youngest to compete for Canada at the annual holiday tournament, behind names like Wayne Gretzky, Connor McDavid, Eric Lindros and, of course, Crosby.
But Lafreniere’s world junior showcase was not exactly a grand coronation. Canada, the host nation, lost in the quarterfinal to Finland, the eventual champion. After a third-period benching against Switzerland in group play, Lafreniere encountered the first real adversity of his young career. He responded with a goal against the Czech Republic in the next game.