We continue our annual prospect review and forecast series with Connor McMichael, forward for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page right here.)
McMichael, a 6’0”, 180lb, left-handed forward, was selected by the Washington Capitals in the first round (25th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The 20-year-old Ajax, Ontario native has spent the last two seasons playing for the London Knights of the OHL. McMichael signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Capitals on July 12, 2019 for $925,000 AAV.
The 2017-2018 season, McMichael’s rookie campaign in the OHL, was relatively pedestrian (for him). He registered just eight goals and eight assists in 60 games for a .26 points per game average. He recorded just 67 shots for a shooting percentage of 11.9% for the season.
The 2018-2019 season was a breakout season for McMichael. Good enough to garner a first round draft pick. He recorded 36 goals and 36 assists in 67 games for a 1.07 points per game rate for his sophomore season in the OHL. He was ultimately drafted by the Capitals in the first round. McMichael made 221 shots for a shooting percentage of 16.3% for the season.
The 2019-2020 season was extraordinary for McMichael, from start to finish. McMichael recorded his second hat trick of the season on November 1st, and had a total of six tricks for the season. McMichael was named OHL player of the week three times, the most in the OHL this season. He finished the season with 47 goals and 55 assists (102 points) in 52 games for a 1.96 points per game average. He recorded 283 shots for a shooting percentage of 16.6% for the season. He also had a pretty good showing at the World Juniors this year. His confidence never wavered the entire season. He would mention in numerous interviews throughout the season that he felt he gained confidence in Capitals training camp last September. (More in monthly report summaries below)
2019-2020 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following month-by-month breakdown is an aggregation of our monthly prospect reports prepared during the 2019-2020 season. You can find all of our weekly and monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
McMichael played in the Capitals’ first preseason game and had a dazzling no-look assist to Damien Riat. McMichael was cut from Capitals training camp on September 19, in time to make the London Knights’ first game on October 20. McMichael would score a goal and assist in the season opener. When one considers what some expectations were for McMichael heading back to the Knights, it would be hard to imagine how he could possibly be trending upwards, but that is the case for the Knights’ leading scorer and the league’s fifth-ranked point-getter. McMichael had 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points in only 12 games in the first month of the season and sits 10 points up on the closest teammate in scoring. McMichael has failed to score a goal in only four of his team’s 12 games so far and his 13 goals have placed him in a tie for third-place in the OHL, just three back of the leader. McMichael has already been named to the CHL Vaughn “Team of the Week” twice, including Week 2, during which he collected seven points in two games, including a hat trick and five points on September 28 against his former team, the Hamilton Bulldogs. For the week of October 21 -27, he again was named to the Team of the Week with four goals and four assists in three games played. He is gaining valuable experience as London Head Coach Dale Hunter is utilizing McMichael on the penalty-killing units, a role in which he has two shorthanded goals so far. He’ll also be playing in the OHL/Russia Selects tournament starting on November 7.
Connor McMichael took a hot first month of the OHL season and somehow improved on it. After 26 points in the 12-game opening month, he’s registered 12 goals and 18 assists for 30 points in 12 games in November. McMichael is also on an incredible, 17-game point streak that began on October 18. He’s had five games tallying at least three points including hat tricks against Erie on November 1 and rival Kitchener on November 22. He was credited with three assists as well in the Erie game for a six-point night and was plus-9 for the month. As he was multiple times in October, McMichael was named to the Vaughan “Team of The Week” again twice this month. Named for the week of October 28 to November 3 in four games (four goals, four assists) and again for November 18-24 in three games (three goals, five assists). This past month saw McMichael suit up in the annual OHL/Russia Select SuperSeries for two games in Kitchener (November 7) and London (November 11). He scored a goal on two shots with a plus-1 rating in Kitchener during a 4-1 OHL win and scored again in his home rink with four shots in London throughout a 4-3 shootout loss. He didn’t convert as the first shooter for Team OHL in extra time. As of December 2, he leads all of the OHL in scoring with 56 points and his 25 goals have him in second place, three back of Hamilton’s Arthur Kaliyev (28). Also a dynamic passer, he is also only three back in the OHL in assists with 31. On special teams, he leads the OHL in goals (nine), assists (14) and points (23) and has chipped in with two short-handed goals as he continues to progress on his defensive side under London coach Dale Hunter.
Continuing to have a fantastic season in London, Connor McMichael took some time away from the OHL this month to represent Team Canada at the 2020 World Junior Tournament in the Czech Republic, and playing in just five games for the London Knights. Following up on the fantastic start he had during the first two months of the season, McMichael maintained his scoring prowess this month with one goal and four assists in five games with London winning in two of the games. McMichael leads London in virtually every category with 25 goals and 34 assists for 59 points in just 27 games, though the team has played 35 games, for a 2.19 points/game average, placing him second in the league. His 24 power play points tie him for the league lead and he’s averaged 4.5 shots on goal a game. McMichael is strong on the faceoff circle as well with a 55.4% rate (225/406), good enough for 22nd in the league (a minimum of 15 draws taken). He went 19/23 on the dot in the December 1 game against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for his best of the season. McMichael spent the week of December 9 -13 in Oakville, Ontario at the Sport Chek Team Canada Selection camp and made the final cut to join Knights Head Coach Dale Hunter and forward Liam Foudy. McMichael played on special teams and the fourth-line for the majority of camp and opened the tournament on the left wing with Edmonton Oilers draftee Raphael Lavoie and Akil Thomas of the Niagara IceDogs (OHL). He scored a goal in Canada’s opener versus the USA and had a power play goal in the final preliminary game versus the Czech Republic and fellow Caps prospect Martin Hugo Has. During Canada’s last two games, McMichael found himself on the top-line and top power play unit with the Arizona Coyotes’ Barrett Hayton and Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Nolan Foote. McMichael finished the preliminary round with two points and a minus-2 rating in four games as Canada went 3-1, losing once to Russia, 6-0. He and his team now move on to face Slovakia in an elimination game on January 2 at 9 AM EST in the medal round quarter-final. London has gone 3-5 without McMichael, Foudy and Hunter back home.
Coming off of a gold medal win at the World Junior tournament, McMichael continued where he left off in the OHL. He’s been on a tear in the 10 games since he rejoined London, scoring at least a point in every game (carrying an overall 12-game point streak) in January. In fact, in only three of those games did he register less than two points and in four games he had three or more points. 12 goals and 12 assists in those games have now given him an incredible 83 points in just 37 games for a league-leading 2.24 points-per-game average. He fired 56 shots for a 5.6 shots-per-game average and was a force at the face-off circle, finishing at 57 percent in efficiency with a 117/204 record. This bodes well for Washington as he has improved in this area every month as his two-way game continues to mature. He is taking important draws to close out games in his zone during a penalty kill. His sixth hat-trick of the season and third of the month against Windsor on Jan 31 gave him 37 goals putting him ahead of his goal total last season in 67 games. His assist and point totals are also higher than last year in an astonishing half the games. He was named the OHL “On the Run” player of the week for the third time this season last week as he collected three goals and four assists in a couple of Knights victories. McMichael has taken his game to an even higher level since returning from the World Junior. His London Knights have lost only once since his return and now sit tied for the West Conference lead and are first in their division. His level of play is beginning to make many second-guess his draft number last year though the Capitals continue to reap the benefits. The biggest question at end of the season already is becoming whether McMichael goes back to junior next season and what that would do to his development. It’s not common for a 19-year-old player to have this kind of consistency and confidence game-in and game-out. He is not eligible (as Martin Hugo Has would be because of his Import draft-status) for AHL in 2020-21 and so, unless he sticks in Washington, he would have to go back to London. McMichael will face fellow Capitals draft pick Martin Hugo Has and his rival Guelph Storm four times in Feb with the next game on the 11th followed by the 21st and 26th.
McMichael’s scoring pace cooled-off quite a bit (for him) in February, as he registered just five goals and nine assists in 12 games played. For comparison, McMichael had 12 goals and nine assists in just nine games in January, including three hat tricks. He fired the puck 54 times for a January shooting percentage of 22.2%. However, his impressive shot rate continued in February. He fired 73 shots for a monthly shooting percentage of just 6.8%, his low spot for the season. That’s 10 percentage points below his season average. So, is McMichael getting tired? Probably not. He played in 67 games all of last season, his career-high in games played. So far this season, he’s played in 48 games for the Knights and seven games for the Canadian National Junior Team, for a total of 55 games. However, when you consider all of the additional travel, practices, etc. associated with representing the national team, one could surmise he is reaching his career-high in team play. For the season, McMichael has 42 goals and 52 assists in 48 games played. He’s recorded 249 shots for a season shooting percentage of 16.8%.
2019-2020 season highlights
2018-2019 season highlights
All Team Canada goals from World Juniors
Draft day break down
McMichael seemed to graduate from the OHL early last season. By thanksgiving it was apparent that there was little more “developing” that could be gained by playing at the CHL level. That’s where a bit of a management puzzle arises. McMichael, 19, will be inelligible to play in the AHL next season. (There is a standing agreement between the AHL and the CHL that precludes a player graduating from the CHL to the AHL prior to his 20th birthday.)
So where to? He has a chance at a bottom six spot next fall with the Capitals, but if he is not 100% ready, you can bet the Capitals won’t rush the teenager. That leaves a return to the CHL for one more season with the Knights, not ideal. Or, he could even theoretically spend a year in Europe. Also not ideal. Regardless, he needs to be challenged with a faster, more physical game. As we mentioned in a number of Weekly Prospect Reports, one of the most surprising observations from this season comes from the announcers of opposing teams. There have been quite a few comments made by opposing announcers that thought his game had vastly improved from last season. That’s hard to get your mind around when you consider he was a first round draft pick after last season. His game has been developing and improving rapidly over the past three seasons.
As for his game, he is excellent with play in, and around the goal area. (He was voted number one in OHL for most dangerous player in goal area by OHL coaches). His play in the goal area is only second to his NHL-caliber shot and shooting skills. (He was also voted best shot by OHL coaches.) Possibly the biggest surprise from watching him all season is the fact he already plays a fairly decent 200 foot game, and has excellent checking skills. He reads plays extremely well, and also anticipates the play very well, which puts him in optimal spots to make a steal. He is also good with the stick when on defense, and can be a honey badger along the boards. McMichael is also well versed at the dot, and took a majority of the faceoffs for the Knights this season. He will need to work on his physical play, which will be much greater at the next level.
Connor McMichael Voted Best Shot, Most Dangerous In Goal Area in OHL Western Conference by OHL Coaches
Capitals’ Prospect Connor McMichael Scores Twice, Hits 100-Point Plateau in 50th Game vs. Sting
Top 3 Surprises in Connor McMichael’s Game (So Far)
Capitals’ Prospect Connor McMichael Named OHL’s ‘On The Run’ Player Of The Week
Capitals’ Prospect Connor McMichael Scores Hat Trick In Win With London Knights; Records 6th Hat Trick Of The Season
Capitals’ Prospect Connor McMichael Gets Fifth Hat-Trick Of The Season
Capitals’ Prospect Connor McMichael Records Fifth Goal In Two Games, Including Insane Between-The-Legs Shot
I’ll Have A Mc-Triple: Caps’ 2019 First-Round Pick Connor McMichael Records Hat Trick Against Saginaw Spirit
Capitals’ 2019 First-round Pick Connor McMichael Helps Rally Team Canada To Gold Medal In 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship
Connor McMichael Scores 4th Goal Of Tournament, Canada Beats Finland 5-0, Advances To Finals vs. Russia
Connor McMichael Scores In Team Canada’s 6-1 Victory Over Team Slovakia, Advances To Semi-Finals
Connor McMichael Scores In Team Canada’s 7-2 Trouncing Of Fellow Caps Prospect Martin Has’ Czech Republic
Connor McMichael Scores In Team Canada’s 6-4 Win Over Team USA; Martin Hugo Has And Czech Republic Beat Russia
Connor McMichael Is Ready For Any Role In 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship
Connor McMichael Survives Final Cut, Makes Team Canada’s 2020 World Junior Team
Connor McMichael: Update From The Road To The 2020 World Junior Championship
Capitals’ Prospect Connor McMichael Poised To Take International Stage
Capitals’ 2019 First-Round Pick Connor McMichael Scores Hat Trick In London Knights’ Trouncing of Kitchener Rangers
Knights’ Connor McMichael Named OHL ‘On the Run’ Player of the Week
Connor McMichael Scores Second Hat Trick Of The Season
Capitals Prospect Connor McMichael Named OHL Player Of The Week
Red-Hot Prospect: Caps’ 2019 First-Round Pick Connor McMichael Nets Hat Trick and Two Assists, Continues Hot Start to the Season
Connor McMichael, Capitals’ Prospects Impress In First Preseason Game
Review Of Connor McMichael’s Play in the 2019 World Junior Summer Showcase
Capitals Sign 2019 First-Round Pick, Connor McMichael To Three-Year Entry-Level Deal
Capitals’ Development Camp Scrimmage Recap – Connor McMichael Scores, Adds Another In Shootout
Capitals Select Connor McMichael 25th Overall At 2019 NHL Draft
By Jon Sorensen