When he first arrived at the Team Canada Junior Summer Showcase last summer, it was thought that Capitals’ 2019 first-round pick Connor McMichael would serve as an injury replacement player for the Team Canada. However, after a great start to his season with the London Knights and a solid showing in last week’s selection camp, McMichael has found himself a member of a team looking to get back on track after a sixth-place finish last year.
The soon-to-be 19-year old (January 15) center looks to be settling into a bottom-six role with Team Canada. Playing with Akil Thomas (Niagara IceDogs) and Raphael Lavoie (Halifax Mooseheads/Edmonton NHL), the trio will be entrusted to provide secondary scoring (much like the Capitals), while controlling the pace of play.
This is not surprising, as Team Canada has historically had players of McMichael’s acumen playing a depth role. Rarely has a returning player not played top minutes for Canada and this year is proving to be no exception with Barrett Hayton (Arizona Coyotes), Joe Veleno (Grand Rapids AHL/Detroit NHL) and Nolan Foote (Kelowna Rockets WHL/Tampa Bay NHL) all playing big roles for the Canadians. Veleno, a Drummondville Voltigeurs graduate, was the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s first 15-year-old exceptional player.
Don’t be surprised, however, if the well-rounded McMichael finds himself in different roles throughout the tournament, as he is one of the most versatile forwards on the squad. TSN’s Craig Button eluded to his being a player that can contribute anywhere in the lineup. “There are 13 spots on Team Canada’s roster, and McMichael can play in every single one of them adeptly.” This bodes well for the Capitals down the road, with his ability to play a solid two-way game and be able to strike quickly at any given time.
With his offensive IQ, McMichael is being employed on Team Canada’s second power play unit and has found time on the team’s penalty killing unit as well. Speaking with DurhamRegion.com, McMichael believes in his 200-foot game, saying, “There’s a lot of skilled players so I can adapt to any role. I think I can be in all situations.”
Former Capitals player and Head Coach Dale Hunter is getting his first chance to lead the best Canada has to offer at this tournament and should help ease McMichael’s time in the Czech Republic for the tournament. McMichael isn’t the only familiar face for Hunter [the Head Coach of the London Knights], as fellow Knight forward Liam Foudy also joined McMichael after the Team Canada’s final cut was made.
While every player wants to win a championship in their own right, the two Knights players know how much this means to their club’s coach. “He wants it bad”, McMichael told TSN, “There’s nothing he loves more than winning hockey games.”
McMichael saw limited action on Monday during the 4-2 win over Finland in the last preseason game before the tournament opens on December against the United States at 1:00 PM EST.
Nolan Foote had two goals with Ty Dellandrea (Flint Firebirds OHL/Dallas NHL) and Kevin Bahl (Ottawa 67’s OHL/ New Jersey NHL), adding the fourth. McMichael was on the ice for the tying second goal by Finland in the third with 12 minutes left and did not get a shift while Canada was killing a late penalty in the third, with Finland holding pressure in the offensive zone during the first minute and a half of the man-advantage.
McMichael and Team Canada open on December 26 at 1:00 PM EST versus the United States with he, Foudy and Hunter potentially facing fellow London Knight and Team USA defenseman Alec Regula.
By Marcus Boutilier