Joe Noyes Photography
Hendrix Lapierre was somewhat of a surprise member of the Capitals’ inaugural lineup of the 2021-22 season, making the team as a 19-year old and scoring his first NHL goal in his first game. The 22nd overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft is one of the Caps’ high-profile prospects currently in attendance at their 2022 Development Camp.
Lapierre, who impressed in his short time with the Caps, was returned to Acadie-Bathurst of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after a six-game sample of NHL action.
“I think there was a lot of ups and downs. Obviously when I got sent down to juniors, the first couple weeks were tough. People were saying to me, like ‘you’re probably going to have a time when you’re going to be down’, and I was like ‘no, it’s going to be alright’, but as soon as I got sent down, I was a little sad, obviously being here was awesome, so the season went well, but obviously I could have been a little more consistent and obviously we didn’t win and that sucks, but I think I got to grow from that, and I gained a lot of experience and I’m ready to come back in September and make my mark.”
Lapierre, who will be 20 when the 2022-23 NHL season commences, could potentially have a role on the team, with holes in the lineup caused by the ailments of Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom, most notably, leaving open the chance for players within the organization to step up. During his short stint to start the season with the Caps, Lapierre made an impression on a number of the Washington veterans.
“My strength is probably my number one priority just being big and being able to play 82 games against men, every other night, so I think for me that’s my biggest concern…I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to put on some more weight [he is currently 185 pounds) and get ready, and obviously just little things too…My consistency just every single night being there, I don’t think it’s a lack of will or anything, it’s just nights go better than others. I think just my general game, in the d-Zone when I was a center, I would have a little trouble sometimes when other teams would do specific movements, I’d just be standing in the d-zone.”
“It helped me a lot. Obviously it’s tough to pinpoint one thing, you know being around those guys each and every day and seeing what they do. You know it’s a veteran group a lot of guys from 28, to 36-37 years old, they’ve been there awhile, they know what it takes. And for me as a young kid coming in I kind of see what they do each and every day that allows them to have success in the best league in the world, whether it’s just spending extra time in the gym or taking care of your body the best way you can, it’s really eye opening and motivating.”
With the Covid-19 pandemic causing a number of headaches in scheduling and consistent game action in the two prior seasons to 2021-22, this summer saw the hockey world return to a more normal schedule, offering a chance for players to train and condition throughout the offseason.
“Just keep getting better every day. I know it’s cliche, but it’s really getting better every day, feeling stronger every day, feeling faster. It’s the first summer in awhile that I’ve had nothing but this development camp, so I’ve really 12-13 weeks to train, so I think I’ll make the most out of it. Obviously I want to make the Washington Capitals, it’s my objective. I think if I have a camp like last year, I’ll put the odds on my side, if I have to play in Hershey, I’ll just be ready for whatever I need to do, whatever happens, happens, I just don’t want to have regrets when I finish camp. But it’s a long time, so right now I’m just focused on having fun with the boys here, and just really enjoying the experience.”
The loss of Backstrom in particular leaves a massive hole open for the taking, although Lapierre knows it isn’t going to come easily.
“Obviously I feel real bad for Nick, he was really good to me when I was here, and obviously he’s a tremendous player and has done a lot of good for the Washington organization, and I know he has hip problems right now and probably needs surgery [Backstrom underwent hip surgery in June], so there is a spot. It’s my job to come in and take that spot. Like last year, I just want to ride out camp, try to not put pressure in my head, just play hockey, have fun. Outwork everyone and work really hard. I’m confident in what I can accomplish.”
See Lapierre’s full comments HERE.
The Capitals’ Development Camp runs through July 15, and features a number of known prospects in addition to invitees.
By Michael Fleetwood