Screen cap: @capitals
After a strong 2020-21 season with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears, the 2019 first-round draft pick of the Washington Capitals, Connor McMichael, has been waiting for his first game of the 2021-22 NHL season. Through the first two games, 2020 first-round pick Hendrix Lapierre has seen playing time (and some offensive results), however a different line combination on Monday indicates McMichael could get a look for Tuesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.
“I’m not sure yet”, McMichael told the media when asked whether the Capitals’ coaching staff had indicated whether he would suit up on Tuesday.
“It’s a good sign I’m skating with those guys and I thought we had a pretty good practice today so if I do get in tomorrow, I’ll be ecstatic”.
Skating on a line with T.J. Oshie and Conor Sheary, McMichael seemed optimistic about the trio’s ability in game action.
“They’re two amazing players. Osh is really good with the puck and Shears is pretty quick and that’s kind of two things I think have in my game and so I think I’ll be able to do great on that line and we had some pretty good chemistry in practice today, so I’m excited”.
McMichael evaluated the team’s performance as well, expressing his belief the team was executing nice puck movement and scoring “some big goals”.
With the Caps starting the season at home, fans have packed Capital One Arena in full to cheer on the home team. On playing in that atmosphere, McMichael seemed excited to get the opportunity.
“A lot more energy in the rink, just watching the last two games, the 20-year old said of the Capitals’ fans, “The crowd really brought the energy to the boys and I heard all the guys talking about in the room so I’m looking forward to that and experiencing a real game with real fans”.
It’s different from practice for sure”, McMichael said of preparing for game action versus practice, “You kind of have to get your mind and kind of get in a better off-ice warmup before you get out there to get your legs going. I haven’t played in a week or so, so if I do play tomorrow I’ll use the first period to get back into it and try to get a quick start”.
With any young player, the pace and demand of an NHL season can be tough. Despite not playing yet this season, McMichael praised the Capitals’ coaching staff for supporting him until his name is called. “They’ve been great with me. I’m still a young player and they’re basically saying my time will come you just have to keep pushing and working hard”.
“Yeah for sure, skating with the real team every day, and just being around the guys makes you feel more a part of the team”, McMichael admitted, when asked about whether his preparation has improved with the team’s returning to a more normal operation this season following the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects a season ago. “The practices are a lot more faster paced than they were last year just being on the taxi squad with a handful of guys so I think I’ll have a lot better preparation”.
Every member of the Capitals has a goal song that is played when they light the lamp. While most of the players’ tunes are known, McMichael was coy about revealing his, saying only, “Hopefully you guys will find out”, when pressed on the selection.
By Michael Fleetwood