The Canadian Hockey League is proud to announce that Alexis Lafreniere of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Rimouski Oceanic is the 2019-20 recipient of the CHL’s David Branch Player of the Year Award.
Lafreniere was chosen most outstanding after scoring 112 points including 35 goals and 77 assists in 52 games for the league’s highest point-per-game rate of 2.15 which is the best since Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters scored at a 2.50 pace in 2014-15. The top ranked North American skater for the 2020 NHL Draft becomes just the second back-to-back recipient in league history following fellow Oceanic forward Sidney Crosby in 2004 and 2005.
“I’m really honoured to have won the David Branch trophy for the CHL MVP,” Lafreniere said. “I would like to thank my teammates, coaches, and all the organization in Rimouski for what they’ve done for me. I wouldn’t be here without them so a big thanks to everyone.”
The 18-year-old from Saint-Eustache, Quebec, produced in 43 of his 52 games this season including 30 multi-point efforts and highlighted by a seven-point performance with a goal and six assists on February 16 against the Quebec Remparts. He carried a 14-game point-streak from November 9 to January 11 and in between won gold with Canada’s National Junior Team at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship where he was named tournament MVP. This season he increased his point production by seven points in nine fewer games and carries career totals of 114 goals and 183 assists for 297 points in 173 games since being chosen first overall by the Oceanic in the 2017 QMJHL Entry Draft. He also holds an impressive plus-minus rating of plus-128 which ranks third in the QMJHL since 1994-95. Lafreniere’s CHL awards resume includes 2018 Rookie of the Year and 2020 Top Draft Prospect to go along with his 2019 and 2020 Player of the Year honours.
In addition to back-to-back awards for Lafreniere and Crosby, the very first member of the Oceanic to be recognized with the league’s top individual honour was Brad Richards back in 2000 when the club captured its first and only Memorial Cup. Since the award was first presented in 1975 there have been 15 other recipients who have won in their first year of NHL Draft eligibility. That list includes McDavid (2015), Jonathan Drouin of the Halifax Mooseheads (2013), Crosby (2005), Pierre-Marc Bouchard of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens (2002), Eric Lindros of the Oshawa Generals (1991), Mike Ricci of the Peterborough Petes (1990), Mario Lemieux of the Laval Voisins (1984), Pat Lafontaine of the Verdun Juniors (1983), Dale Hawerchuk of the Cornwall Royals (1981), Doug Wickenheiser of the Regina Pats (1980), Pierre Lacroix of the Trois-Rivieres Draveurs (1979), Bobby Smith of the Ottawa 67’s (1978), Dale McCourt of the St. Catharines Fincups (1977), Peter Lee of the Ottawa 67’s (1976), and Ed Staniowski of the Regina Pats (1975). Of that list, eight became first overall NHL Draft picks including McDavid, Crosby, Lindros, Lemieux, Hawerchuk, Wickenheiser, Smith, and McCourt. Of note, John Tavares of the Oshawa Generals was a 2007 national award recipient but would be chosen first overall in the 2009 NHL Draft.
Finalists for the award were Minnesota Wild prospect Adam Beckman of the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs and 2020 NHL Draft prospect Marco Rossi of the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s. This season the trophy was renamed in honour of David Branch who has held his position as OHL Commissioner since 1979, and served as CHL President from 1996-2019.