Next up in our annual prospect review and forecast series is Connor McMichael, forward for the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League (AHL). (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 three seasons playing for the London Knights of the OHL and the Hershey Bears of the AHL. 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 selection. 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 fired 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 that 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 that 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 the previous September. (More in monthly report summaries below)
The 2020-21 season started late for McMichael. In November he joined Team Canada for World Juniors selection camp and would join the team for the tournament in Edmonton. He recorded four goals and four assists in seven games and took home a silver medal. He would then quickly head to Washington where he spent a few days before being re-assigned to Hershey for the season. Because of the pandemic, CHL players that would normally be precluded from playing in the AHL were allowed to join AHL teams. It would be a tremendous break for McMichael. He would record 14 goals and 13 assists in 33 games with the Bears, demonstrating he belonged at the AHL. Bears coach Spencer Carbery would say in an end-of-year presser that McMichael was ready for the NHL, but still needed to work on a few of the finer points of his game.
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 2020-21 season. You can find all of our weekly and monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
On Monday, November 16 McMichael reported to Team Canada’s U20 selection camp in Red Deer, Alberta. This is the second selection camp for McMichael. The camp lasted for the 28 days prior to the 2021 World Junior Championship, held in Edmonton, Alberta.
McMichael started at left wing on the top line for Team Red in both camp scrimmmages.
McMichael would score in the first Team Canada scrimmage on November 21.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) November 22, 2020
Hockey Canada announced on November 25 that all players, coaches and staff participating in Team Canada’s U20 selection camp held in Red Deer, Alberta, had to undergo a 14-day quarantine, as required by the Government of Alberta and Alberta Health Services.
On November 24 it was announced that two of the 46 players participating in this years selection camp for the 2021 World Juniors Championship tested positive for COVID-19. As per government order, any person coming in close contact with someone testing positive must quarantine for 14 days. Hockey Canada confirmed Wednesday night that they would adhere to the local order.
Assuming all players, coaches and staff began their quarantine on Tuesday, the camp would be able to re-start camp activities on December 7. That would leave about a week of additional training before the team is to depart for Edmonton in advance of the 2021 World Junior Championship.
ANALYSIS: McMichael just needs games. In Canada’s selection camp scrimmages he looked to be picking up where he left off, but then camp was thrown into the two week quarantine.
Hockey Canada announced on November 25 that all players, coaches and staff participating in Team Canada’s U20 selection camp held in Red Deer, Alberta had to undergo a 14-day quarantine, as required by the Government of Alberta and Alberta Health Services. The quarantine was required after a player and a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
Team Canada received official clearance from Alberta Health to resume U20 selection camp activities in advance of the 2021 World Junior Championship on Tuesday, December 8. McMichael had two assists in the third intrasquad game on December 9.
FINAL | Intrasquad scrimmage – Dec. 9
⚪️ 6 — 🔴 4
Dach – 🚨🚨🍎🍎
Byram – 🚨🍎
Suzuki – 🚨🍎
Cozens – 🍎🍎
McMichael – 🍎🍎
Perfetti – 🍎🍎
Levi – 16🛑
Gauthier – 15🛑
MORE at https://t.co/0wSsJkoP40.
— #WorldJuniors (@HC_WJC) December 10, 2020
Hockey Canada announced the Canadian roster for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships in Edmonton, which would start on Christmas Day and end on Tuesday, January 5, and McMichael, the Capitals’ first-round pick in 2019, was among the last picks to make the team.
How deep is Team Canada this year? McMichael was slotted as the left wing on the third-line last year when he was 18-years old. In Canada’s only exhibition game on December 23, he moved to the third-line Center position.
McMichael was held off the scoresheet but had several nice scoring chances in the game.
The Ontario Hockey League (OHL), which was set to start its season on February 4, announced earlier in the day on December 23 that it will further delay the start of its season due to the province-wide shutdown in Ontario, which began on Saturday, December 26, for four weeks.
McMichael recorded a shorthanded goal and two assists in Team Canada’s 16-2 blowout of the Germans on December 26. Due to a tournament-ending injury to Kirby Dach, McMichael was elevated to center the top line for the opening game. He was also named as an alternate captain.
In Canada’s second game against Slovakia on December 27, McMichael remained at center on the top-line. Canada won 3-1, with McMichael held off the scoresheet. He tried the between-the-legs shot midway through the final period.
McMichael and Team Canada faced Team Switzerland in their third game of the tournament on December 29, during which McMichael recorded his second goal of the tournament.
Dylan Cozens once again shows his smart defensive stick, this time using his long reach to get the steal before feeding McMichael for the goal. Canada leads Switzerland 5-0 at the second intermission. pic.twitter.com/std7vfnuXF
— Kris Baker (@SabresProspects) December 30, 2020
McMichael would finish the game with a goal and an assist in Team Canada’s 10-0 drubbing of Switzerland. Through the first three games, McMichael tallied two goals and three assists and was tied for ninth in points for the entire tournament.
McMichael had a good game against Finland on New Year’s Eve, but no points; he hit two posts and a crossbar in the contest. He would finish the qualifying round with two goals and three assists and a plus-5 in four games and recorded 16 shots on goal for a shooting percentage of 12.5%.
McMichael once again centered the top line in Team Canada’s World Juniors quarterfinal game against the Czech Republic.
McMichael had a nice flip pass to open ice for a primary assist on Canada’s first goal of the game.
— Caitlin Berry (@caitlinsports) January 3, 2021
McMichael would add an empty-net goal late in the game to stretch Canada’s lead to 3-0.
— Caitlin Berry (@caitlinsports) January 3, 2021
He had a goal and an assist in the game, giving him three goals and and four assists in five games played in the tournament. The win set up a Canada-Russia semi-final.
In the semi-final, McMichael scored Canada’s second goal in a 5-0 blanking of Team Russia, advancing to the Gold Medal game.
— #WorldJuniors (@HC_WJC) January 4, 2021
McMichael and Team Canada finished the tournament with a 2-o loss to the United States in the gold medal game on January 5.
McMichael finished the tournament with four goals and four assists (8 points) in seven games played and recorded 27 shots for a shooting percentage of 14.8%. Last year McMichael recorded five goals and two assists (7 points) in seven games played.
McMichael arrived in Washington the week of January 11 and began his mandatory seven-day quarantine.
McMichael was officially added to the Capitals’ taxi squad on January 21 and skated with the first team in practice that morning. McMichael said that “It was good to get out with the team again” after getting out of a seven-day quarantine.
The 20-year-old said that he went home for a night after the tournament ended, flew to Washington the next day, and skated at MedStar Capitals Iceplex while the team was at the end of their season-opening four-game road trip.
McMichael called being around the team and looking up to the NHL players on the Capitals “pretty cool. There’s a lot of great guys here. … It’s cool to talk to those guys a little bit,” he said.
McMichael practiced with the main group January 21-23. He made his NHL debut on January 24 against the Buffalo Sabres.
He was then re-assigned from the Capitals’ taxi squad to their American Hockey League affiliate Hershey Bears on January 30.
The highly touted prospect lived up to the hype. McMichael lead Hershey with two-game winning goals and was tied for the team lead in goals with four. He was tied for second on the team in scoring with six points.
McMichael tallied his first career goal on February 11 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Ajax, Ontario native put home a rebound on the power play in the third period. The goal would be the difference in a 3-2 Hershey win.
McMichael recorded his first career professional hat trick on February 21. The first goal came on the power play. He made a nice defensive play on the second, stealing the puck at the defensive blueline. He skated in and wristed a shot, top shelf. McMichael secured the hat trick with an empty netter.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) February 20, 2021
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) February 20, 2021
With all the good, there have been some mistakes for the rookie. He lost a faceoff cleanly late in the third period in the season opener against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on February 6 and Wyatt Wylie scored to tie the game with 44 seconds left (Bears lost in overtime). Then on February 11, his turnover led to a rush by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton that ended in a Tim Schaller goal. He atoned for the mistake by scoring the winning goal. McMichael makes mistakes, but he learns quickly from them.
McMichael recorded his second professional multi-goal game against Binghamton on March 21 and both of those goals proved to be big. He chipped in a rebound with 54 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) March 21, 2021
Then, McMichael one-timed a wrister to win the game as the overtime expired. It was McMichael’s third game-winning goal of the season. He was tied for the AHL lead in that category.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) March 21, 2021
Those goals were the only goals that the rookie center scored in March. He also dished out two assists.
McMichael was tied for second on the team in goals with six. One area the Ajax, Ontario can improve on is converting his chances.
He is getting a lot of shots. McMichael has six games where he is has taken five or more shots. He has failed to score in four of them. He has also had quality scoring chances, especially on the power play, where he fails to get his shot on net.
April was McMichael’s most productive month of the season. The rookie pivot compiled eight points for the month. He kicked off the month by tallying twice in a 4-2 win over Binghamton.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) April 3, 2021
He netted the opening goal of the game early in the first period off a rebound and then scored the game-winner late in the third. McMichael wristed a shot high on Gilles Senn with 3:14 left in the contest.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) April 3, 2021
The Ajax, Ontario native picked up an assist in his next game, but went scoreless in his next two games.
McMichael responded with his fourth multi-goal game of the season on April 21 against Lehigh Valley. He netted Hershey’s second and third goals on the game, both on the power play.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) April 21, 2021
His second power play tally:
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) April 22, 2021
McMichael also added an assist on Philippe Maillet’s third period goal. He finished the month by registering an assist in the last game of the month.
McMichael lead the Bears with five game-winning goals. That total was tied for the most in the AHL. He sat second on the Hershey’s scoring list with 18 points and was tied for the team lead in goals with 10.
McMichael had 10 goals and eight assists in 26 games. He’s recorded 100 shots for a 10.0% shooting percentage.
McMichael was supposed to be playing in the Ontario Hockey League this season. Instead, he led the AHL regular season champion Hershey Bears in scoring. The rookie pivot played with a poise and maturity that belies his age. A steady player all season long, McMichael saved his best for last. He tallied four goals and dished out five assists in May.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) May 8, 2021
Three of his goals were game-winners, including the overtime winner at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on May 1 and the deciding goal in the North Division-clinching victory on May 15.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) May 1, 2021
McMichael completed the season with eight game-winning goals, the most in the AHL. In the season finale against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on May 16, McMichael put on a show. He tipped in Hershey’s opening goal on a power play in the first period.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) May 15, 2021
Then, he set up Matt Moulson’s power play goal with a perfectly placed centering pass. Early in the second period, he picked up another primary assist when Brett Leason deflected his pass into the net. McMichael closed out the season by sending a no-look, backhanded pass through the crease to a wide open Leason for a five-on-three power play goal.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) May 16, 2021
McMichael was involved in six of the eight goals the Bears scored during the final weekend. The center finished the season with a team high 27 points. He also led the team with 14 goals.
The American Hockey League announced the 2020-21 AHL All-Rookie Team on May 25, as voted by coaches, players, and media in each of the league’s 28 active member cities. Selected was Hershey Bears center Connor McMichael, making him the first forward in franchise history to be named to the AHL’s All-Rookie team.
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 why it was fortunate for his development he was allowed to forge his final season and begin play in the AHL.
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 AHL for one more season.
As for his game, he is excellent with his 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.) Bears coach Spencer Carbery May have put it best, saying the puck always seems to find him in front of the net.
Possibly the biggest surprise from watching him for the last two seasons 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 really 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 and Bears. He will need to work on his physical play, which will be much greater at the next level. He will fight for a spot on the Capitals roster this fall.
By Jon Sorensen
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By Jon Sorensen