Photo: Hiscox Photos
Connor McMichael’s unbelievable season with the London Knights took a hiatus in early December, as the Capitals’ top-ranked prospect attended Canada’s Sport Chek U20 World Junior Selection Camp in Oakville, Ontario last week. When camp ended, McMichael found himself on his way overseas with Team Canada for continued preparations for the upcoming World Junior Championship.
With the best talent from around the country (both drafted and not), McMichael was seeing time on a checking line in the selection camp. His offensive skills are coveted with the man-advantage, however, he also spent time on the top powerplay, registering an assist in the first exhibition game vs University All-Stars (a majority of former OHL players).
For the most part, McMichael saw a checking role, though it’s not at all unusual in a deep Canada pool to see many players historically take on different roles while representing their country. McMichael’s ability to play up and down the lineup will serve him well in locking up the final spot on the team for the December 26th opener against Team USA. He did take a penalty and Canada was scored against on the subsequent powerplay in the first exhibition game.
McMichael had a nice assist in the second game, a 2-1 loss, again versus the U-Sports All-stars. He made a nice pass after taking the puck off the side of the net and set-up Alex Newhook (Boston College) for the lone Canadian goal. As was the case in game one, with the game won in regulation, the teams had an exhibition shootout in prep for potential situations at the tournament next week. McMichael was a shooter after not taking part in the previous days’ skills competition, but could not beat the goalie.
With Canada head coach Dale Hunter utilizing McMichael in a checking role, it shows progression in his two-way play. McMichael is becoming a more rounded player being used in all situations and this tournament will only amplify that. Hunter had been using him on the penalty-kill with London as well. “A real smart hockey player who can play for you down or up a goal,” said Hunter last week.
Arizona Coyotes forward Barrett Hayton and injured forward Aiden Dudas (Owen Sound Attack) were added to the squad after the selection camp. With those additions, there will still need to be one more made by Christmas Day. I see one of Groulx, Dawson Mercer (Drummondville Voltigeurs) or Akil Thomas (Niagara IceDogs) getting the final cut before McMichael, but you never know in these fluid situations.
McMichael played on a regular (non-checking) line on Thursday afternoon in Canada’s first pre-tournament game vs Switzerland. Skating with Olivier-Benoit Groulx (Halifax Mooseheads) and Akil Thomas, McMichael played the left-wing with Groulx centring the fourth line.
Puck drop in Brno is 4⃣5⃣ minutes away.
— #WorldJuniors (@HC_WJC) December 19, 2019
He saw a shift on the power play and was involved in Canada’s first goal at even strength. After taking the puck from behind the Swiss goal, he tried a wraparound that was stuffed by the goaltender, but bounced out to a waiting Jamie Drysdale (Erie Otters) who fired a quick shot on net that was tipped by Dawson Mercer. The teams went to intermission with Canada holding the one-goal lead.
In the second period, Liam Foudy scored just seven seconds in making it 2-0. Foudy is McMichael’s teammate in London and is also looking strong so far with the team. McMichael saw another shift starting on a powerplay but Canada couldn’t score on their third man-advantage of their game, as the teams skated to the second intermission without any more scoring.
Canada’s Bowen Byram would score in the third giving Canda the 3-0 win with McMichael finishing a +1. He had two excellent chances in the third to score but couldn’t break the twine.
Like the selection camp last week, a “practice” overtime was played with four skaters aside representing a gold medal game (the pre-gold-medal games are three on three). McMichael did not see any shifts in the extra frame, another sign he is his likely looking at a checking assignment by Hunter. With no scoring, the teams headed to a shootout where McMichael did not take a shot in the 3-2 Swiss win during the shootout.
The next game for Canada is Monday at 11:30 AM EST on December 23rd in the last pre-tournament game vs Finland. The team opens for real on Boxing Day vs the United States at 12 PM EST.
By Marcus Boutillier
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#ALLCAPS prospect @connor91mcmichael scored his third hat trick of the season Friday night. McMichael had 3g, 1a in the second period of the Knights 5-1 win over @ohlrangers. For the season, McMichael has 23g, 27a (50 points) in just 20 games played. He leads the @ohlofficial in points. #Capitals #Caps @londonknightsohl (🎥 @ohlofficial)