Connor McMichael: “I Like The Pressure, I Think That’s When I Play My Best”

Team Canada’s U20 selection camp just wrapped-up their mandatory 14-day quarantine on Monday following a pair of positive test results that occurred during the first week of camp. The team returned to the ice on Tuesday and will hold two more scrimmages this week before breaking camp in Red Deer and relocating to Edmonton this Saturday before the start of the 2021 World Junior Championship.

Washington Capitals prospects Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre are both participating in the selection camp.

McMichael is participating in his second selection camp, and is all but assured to make the cut this year. Before exiting the quarantine in Red Deer he sat for a quick interview with TSN on Monday.

“Yeah, they’ve actually been good with us, giving us stuff to do to keep us busy. I think it’s been cool getting guest speakers on, and playing some poker on Zoom with the guys. Honestly, I think my favorite moment, probably having a little competitiveness, playing some poker with the guys, trying to win a some money.”

During the quarantine period, Team Canada’s more experienced players split up into committees to help the group navigate the down time. McMichael served on the social committee, which also organized a Rock Paper Scissors tournament. Saginaw defenceman Mason Millman defeated assistant coach Mitch Love in that event.

“Honestly, we were more busy than I expected and it wasn’t too bad,” McMichael said. “It sucks and obviously none of us wanted this to happen, but we’re all focused on one goal, which is to make the team and ultimately win a gold medal so I think it’s easy to stay motivated.”

McMichael, who has proven time and time again that he thrives on the big stage, was asked why he has done so well in big situations.

“I like the pressure, I think that’s when I play my best. When players are able to rely on me or coaches are able to rely on me, I’m able to perform at my best. I just want to feed that to other people, and make them feel more comfortable, because the more comfortable we feel in big situations, obviously it helps the team out a lot more. I kinda like the approach of joking around with guys in practice, just trying to ease the nerves. That what I’m gonna try to do this year as well.

McMichael seems to deal with any nervousness all in stride.

“Last year, first time playing World Juniors, it was a dream come true so you’re obviously really nervous. You want to represent your country and win a gold medal so before every game you’re nervous and you have a lot of adrenaline. I like the approach of joking around with guys in practice … to ease the nerves and that’s what I’ll look to do this year as well.”

McMichael mentioned in a prior interview that he had gained around eight pounds since returning from the playoff bubble in Toronto. He said he could feel the difference on the ice in Red Deer.

“Yeah, I’ve felt that on the ice a lot. Just battling in corners and taking pucks to the net you feel a lot stronger. It’s been a lot longer off-season than usual so I was able to be in the gym a lot and put on some more weight and being in the bubble with the Capitals was good for me. I was able to workout with those guys and go through their strength programs and it helped me put on some muscle. You feel a lot faster and stronger on the ice when you’re able to do that.”

The two Team Canada players who tested positive two weeks ago will not be part of the return to play protocols as established by Alberta Health and Hockey Canada. In addition to those two players, three more will also be excluded from Return To Play (RTP), and will be heading home.

Defencemen Matthew Robertson, Mason Millman and Daemon Hunt and forwards Ridly Greig and Xavier Simoneau were sent home before camp resumed.

“Those five players, obviously a very, very difficult position and situation,” according to Hockey Canada senior vice-president of national teams Scott Salmond.

“This is not a hockey decision. This is a health decision based on return-to-play protocols. They were unable to continue with camp today. Feel horribly for those kids.”

As part of RTP protocols, Team Canada selection camp has shifted from its pre-quarantine status as a “protective environment” to “fully secured bubble format.” No media will attend practices/games. Intra-squad games will not be streamed and no refs/linesmen/timekeepers permitted in.

The world junior hockey championship opens Dec. 25 in Edmonton. Exhibition games are planned for Dec. 20-23.

The nine other international teams are scheduled to arrive by charter flight Sunday. Some are already minus players because of the virus. Any player, coach or team staff member who tested positive for the virus after Nov. 29 is ineligible to enter Edmonton’s “bubble.”

Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Howard Njoo said discussions remain ongoing with the Alberta government and Hockey Canada.

“We’ve been in active discussions with officials in Alberta, both public health and Hockey Canada,” Njoo said during a press conference on Tuesday. “The protocols we see from a pure technical public health perspective — I think I mentioned this earlier — look good with respect to the fact they intend to use the same bubble concept as was successful for the NHL and also with the NBA with their playoffs last year.

Related Reading: 2021 World Junior Championship
Team Canada Cleared to Return To Ice Following 14-Day Quarantine 
Martin Hugo Has Officially Invited To Czech Junior Team Selection Camp
Team Canada to undergo 14-day quarantine after two players test positive for COVID-19
Team Canada postpones third scrimmage after two players test positive for COVID-19
On loan for two weeks before returning to Czech Republic U20 camp, Martin Hugo Has is making an impact with HC Benátky 
Team White Downs Team Red In Second Team Canada Scrimmage
Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre do battle in first Team Canada scrimmage
Connor McMichael: “We have a big opportunity in front of us to repeat”
Report From Day One Of Team Canada’s U20 Selection Camp
Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre Report To Team Canada U20 Selection Camp
Martin Hugo Has Is Happy To Be Back At Work, Even If It’s Inside A Bubble

By Jon Sorensen

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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