Prospect Notes: Devils at Capitals – Hendrix Lapierre, Connor McMichael Continue Strong Play

The Washington Capitals continued their 2021 pre-season schedule on Wednesday night when they hosted the New Jersey Devils at Capitals One Arena. As was the case in the Capitals first preseason game against the Bruins on Sunday, both sides deployed a number of prospects in the game.

In total, nine players selected by Washington in the NHL draft were in the lineup for the Capitals on Wednesday. Aliaksei Protas, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Shane Gersich, Brian Pinho, Vincent Iorio and Alex Alexeyev made their first starts in the 2021 preseason, while Connor McMichael, Brian Pinho and Hendrix Lapierre made their second-consecutive preseason starts.

Starting Lineup

The Capitals starting forward lines and defensive pairs for the second preseason game against the New Jersey Devils:

Zach Fucale got the start in goal for the Capitals. Ilya Samsonov came in to start the third period.

Player Reports

Connor McMichael
Pos: 3C
Toi: 13:46
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Plus/Minus: 0

McMichael got his second-consecutive preseason start, this time centering the third line. A path for McMichael making the Capitals opening night roster, considering Nicklas Backstrom will likely be out, has Lars Eller move up to second line center to take Backstrom’s spot and McMichael filling in for Eller at third line center. As for the game, McMichael seems to be fairly comfortable with the speed of the game. He made a beautiful behind-the-net feed late in the first period for a quality scoring chance. McMichael had another solid game down low, playing in front of the net, and had a nice goalie screen on Vecchione’s goal. He had a nice flurry of net-front chances early in the final frame, but could not convert. McMichael played 13:46, including 27 seconds of power play time. He generated a team-high three shots (tied with Lapierre). McMichael was 5 of 7 from the dot. Trending: Up

Hendrix Lapierre
Pos: 2C
Toi: 13:39
Goals: 0
Assists: 2
Plus/Minus: 0

Lapierre started his second consecutive preseason game, this time centering the second line. Lapierre centered the third line in the Capitals preseason opener on Sunday. He had another solid game Wednesday night, recording two more assists for a total of four assists in two games. He set up Oshie with a nice pass up center ice for an Oshie goal.

Lapierre also had a nice rush early in the second period, moving through the Devils defense, generating a good chance and drawing a penalty. Lapierre had 27 seconds of power play time in the game. He looks really comfortable with the speed of the game at this point, and has made a number of quality passing plays in the first two preseason games. He had three shots on goal. Lapierre was 10 of 14 in faceoffs. Trending: Up

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby
Pos: 3LW
Toi: 12:08
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Plus/Minus: -1

Axel Jonnson-Fjallby made his first appearance in a preseason game this season on Wednesday night. He was called for a tripping penalty halfway through the first frame, but there were no damages done. He had a very good shift at the end of the first period, chasing down a puck and making a nice centering pass for a quality scoring chance. His play along the boards was also pretty good for most of the game. He seems to be playing fairly well at NHL game speed. Jonsson-Fjallby also played 0:57 seconds of penalty kill time for the Capitals. He generated two shots on goal. He had the second-best possession metrics of all Capitals prospects. (See below). Trending: Same

Shane Gersich
Pos: 4LW
Toi: 11:03
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Plus/Minus: -1

Gersich played 2:27 on the penalty kill, something he’s becoming noted for in Hershey, and did well tonight. He was beat to the net in the middle of the second period, but no damages. Gersich made a nice steal, rush and dish to Pinho for a quality scoring chance early in the third period. He drew a cross-checking penalty late in the third period. It’s clear that Gersich and the Capitaals have settled on a role for him. (Bottom six line generator). Gersich was 2 for 2 at the dot. Trending: Same

Aliaksei Protas
Pos: 2LW
Toi: 12:27
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Plus/Minus: 0

Aliaksei Protas made his preseason start this season on the wing. The natural center could find an easier path to the Capitals regular season roster by playing on the wing. Protas said during the second intermission interview that he didn’t have a preference with regards to wing or center, “whatever the coach wants me to do.” As for the game, likely a nervous start for Protas as he fumbled an early pass. He would settle down halfway through the first period. He showed strong play along the boards, using his size, well. Protas played 1:46 of power play time. He generated no shots, hits or blocks. Protas was 1 for 1 from the dot. Trending: Same

Brian Pinho
Pos: 4C
Toi: 11:02
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Plus/Minus: -1

Pinho played in his second consecutive preseason game, this time centering the fourth line. On Sunday Pinho played right wing on the third line. His flexibility will be an asset for both the Bears and Capitals. He was more noticeable in this game, making a few decent passes and moving the puck within the Capitals offensive zone. Pinho had 3:07 of penalty kill time, the second highest on the Capitals. He generated two shots on goal, one hit and no blocked shots. Pinho was 3 of 8 in faceoffs. Trending: Same.

Kody Clark
Pos: 4RW
Toi: 10:02
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Plus/Minus: +1

A quiet game for Clark as he continues to dust off the rust. He played 1:04 on the penalty kill, had one shot on goal and no blocked shots. Clark was 1 for 1 in faceoffs for the game. Trending: Same

Alex Alexeyev
Pos: 1LD
Toi: 19:51
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Plus/Minus: -2

Alexeyev saw time on the penalty kill and did well. He also saw some time on the Capitals second power play. He was called for a high-stick late in the third period which led to a Devils power play and the Devils’s 5th goal of the night. He generated one shot, two blocked shots and one hit. Trending: Same.

Vincent Iorio
Pos: 2RD
Toi: 14:51
Goals: 0
Assists: 0
Plus/Minus: -1

Iorio, 18, started strong with two quick zone exits that initiated quality Capitals offensive rushes and a scoring chance for Anthony Mantha. Unfortunately, a few shifts later he and Kempny were split by the Devils’ Yegor Sharongovich for the game’s first goal.

Kempny and Iorio were victimized again early in the second period when Kempny turned the puck over for a quick Devils’ tally. Iorio saw time on the penalty kill and did fairly well. Iorio had no shots, two hits and one blocked shot and one giveaway. Trending: Same

Zach Fucale
Pos: G
Toi: 15:55
Goals: 3
Assists: 0
Plus/Minus: 0

Fucale played fairly well. The first two goals were high-danger chances that left him little chance of making the save. He did fumble a puck behind the net early in the second period but there were no resultant damages. He had a nice breakaway save midway through the second period. Fucale did allow a questionable goal midway through the second period for the Devils third goal.

Fucale played two full periods, stopping 12 of 15 for a .800 game save percentage. Trending: Same.

Advanced Stats

The following graphic presents the corsi for percentages (CF%), scoring chances for percentages (SCF%) and expected goals for percentages (xGF%) for each of the Capitals prospects that played in the first preseason game.

Connor McMichael, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby and Hendrix Lapierre led all Capitals prospects in possession metrics.

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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