Alexis Lafreniere doesn't expect the pressure as the projected No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft to make him grip his hockey stick any tighter this season.
The 6-foot-1, 192-pound left wing from Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League welcomes the challenge.
"There's always a little bit of pressure, but for me it's not the first thing I'm looking at," Lafreniere said. "I'm trying to get better every day, every game, every practice. Trying to focus on myself and how I can grow as a player.
"My offensive game is much better now than it was this time last summer."
This time last summer, Lafreniere was invited to the World Junior Summer Showcase, the first phase in choosing rosters for the IIHF World Junior Championship, as a 16-year-old with visions of representing Canada at the best under-20 aged tournament in the world.
He earned a roster spot, played a limited role and is now determined to showcase even more in his draft-eligible season.
"I've worked on my neutral zone play a lot, gained quickness there," he said. "I'm still trying to work without the puck. It's not perfect and it will never be, but I'm trying to get better every day."
Lafreniere is one of 38 players invited by Canada to the summer showcase this week. He and center Joseph Veleno (Detroit Red Wings) are the only returning players from the team that finished sixth at the 2019 WJC. The 2020 WJC will be held Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Czech Republic.