Prior to the start of the 2021-22 regular season, Washington Capitals forward Connor McMichael was considered the team’s top prospect, having impressed during an unexpected 2020-21 season with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, after a full season in the NHL under his belt, the 21-year old former first-round pick is getting his first taste of the chase for the Stanley Cup.
McMichael, who was selected 25th overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, finished the 2021-22 regular season recording 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in 68 Games Played, at times going through the anticipated struggles of a young player adjusting to the pace of the NHL.
“Obviously I’ve gotten used to the pace of the play in the NHL, so the difference between playoffs and regular season isn’t as big as it was if I just jumped into a playoff game, but like I said the pace of play is up for sure, and the physicality, and it’s a lot of fun to be a part. I think I just got a lot of games under my belt now. I feel like there’s not as many nerves…I think I’ve gotten more comfortable with my game, and getting better.”
The Ajax, Ontario native got his first taste of playoff hockey at Capital One Arena in the Caps’ 6-1 trouncing of the Florida Panthers on Saturday, where a raucous sea of red saw their team take a 2-1 series lead.
“It was really cool. Honestly, it was more than I could have imagined and the crowd brought a lot of energy last night, even when we got out there for warmups the rink was pretty packed. It was fun to be a part of and it was great we went out there and got the win. The pace of play was up, the physicality, obviously the energy in the building helped our team a lot, and gave us extra motivation to pull that one out.”
The Capitals face the Cats for the second game at Capital One Arena on Monday, looking to take a commanding 3-1 series lead over the President’s Trophy winners.
“It’s well-known they’re a fast team, they show that every night and they got some really good players. We’re kind of just sticking to our game, we’re staying physical not letting them do what they want to do out there, and I think we’ve done a good job of containing their big guys.”
The Capitals entered their first round tilt against Florida as the second wild card team in the Eastern Conference, and were widely seen as the “lesser” of the two clubs. The Capitals, however, are nearly four years removed from their Stanley Cup run, and are a veteran team that has more than kept pace with the Panthers.
“It shows a lot that we have a veteran group, and guys that have a lot of experience. Coming into the series we were obviously labeled as the underdogs going against the President’s Trophy winners, so it just shows our team is ready to compete no matter who we’re playing, and we’ve done a pretty good job so far.”
The Capitals and Panthers will play Game 4 on Monday, at 7:00 PM EST.
“It was really cool. It was honestly more than I could have imagined. The crowd brought a lot of energy last night.”
— x – Washington Capitals (@Capitals) May 8, 2022