There has been quite a bit of discussion surrounding Washington Capitals forward prospects Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre over the recent months, and rightfully so. The pair are arguably two of the Capitals upper-tier prospects and both look to be part of the Capitals future.
There has also been quite a bit of discussion regarding who should be in Washington, who should be in Hershey, who is the better prospects, etc., etc. As a result, I thought it would be helpful to lay out some of the basic information for both prospects to better frame debate going forward.
This piece is not a vote or push for one player or the other, just a presentation of the pertinent details for each player, in order to layout the facts related to their own unique development timeline. You can decide for yourself…if you feel you need to decide at this point in time.
McMichael, 21, is a 6’0”, 180 lb forward, selected by the Capitals in the first round (25th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The Ajax, Ontario native signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Capitals on July 12, 2019 for $925,000 AAV.
Lapierre, 20, is a 6’-0”, 180 lb forward from Gatineau, Quebec. He was drafted by the Capitals in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He signed a three-year entry-level contract on October 27, 2020, for an average annual value of $925,000. With two year’s of entry-level slides, he will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2025.
The following provides a brief overview of each of the player’s development over the past three seasons:
McMichael – in his last season in the juniors (2019-20), he recorded 47 goals and 55 assists in 52 games played (1.96 points per game).
Lapierre – in his last year in the juniors (2021-22), he recorded 21 goals and 30 assists in 40 games played (1.28 points per game).
McMichael – was selected to the Canadian National Junior team twice (2019-20 and 2020-21) and recorded nine goals and six assists in 14 games played in the IIHF World Junior Championship. McMichael was an assistant captain for the 2020-21 team.
Lapierre – was eligible to play the for Canadian National Junior team for three seasons due to Covid pandemic. He was invited to two selection camps but cut from both camps and was not invited to tryout for the third time this past summer.
McMichael – recorded 13 goals, 14 assists in 33 games (.82 points per game) – 127 shots for a 10.2% shooting percentage.
Lapierre – has recorded 3 goals, 7 assists in 12 games played (.83 points per game) – 26 shots for a 11.5% shooting percentage.
McMichael – has nine goals and nine assists in 74 career games. He had a team-high expected goals for percentage (xGF%) of 56.45% for all forwards for the 2021-22 season and has a team low xGF% of 20.68% this season.
Lapierre – has a goal in six games played and xGF% of 47.40% for the 2021-22 season
McMichael is 12 months older than Lapierre, but went through the AHL at a younger age. Lapierre has missed quite a few games in his Junior seasons due to injury and Covid, so one could argue he is more than a year behind McMichael with regards to game experience.
It’s often stated that the biggest jump for a player in their development is from the juniors to the AHL, and both players have appeared to make that jump without much of an issue. It’s still early in Lapierre’s AHL career, but he is scoring and continues to work on his defensive game.
Regardless of your opinion on who should be playing and where, the one thing that is certain is that both players are young and still developing. My personal recommendation is that you wait two years to decide anything regarding both players.
By Jon Sorensen
Thank you for this. I feel a lot of fans are getting way too ahead of themselves on both prospects. We
I have a lot of hope for both of these guys. I think we are doing a disservice to McMichael in how we are utilizing him. Lapierre will shine in Hershey just like McMichael did.
Agree with your take on all counts. 👍👊
“both players are young and still developing”
That’s it. Patience isn’t a virtue for some sports fans. Why McM isn’t getting more experience in Hershey is a mystery to me. What value is in sitting on the bench in the NHL? You can only get so much value that way. As you said, give it two years. Or at least one year for McM.
Patience seems to be a vanishing thing in all walks of life.
They have a HC who doenst like young players and bad management. They did the same with Chandler Stephenson and look at him now, once he was traded. As this team is going nowhere I dont know why they dont plug him in on the 3rd line and just let the kid play. IF not then send him to Hershey to get playing time. Seeing how they are handling CMM and how they have handled other young players maybe its time for not only the HC coach to go but also the GM!!
I don’t think anyone thought that Chandler was gonna blossom like that, being a third round pick. He was mostly a cap victim. A better example is Siegenthaler. We knew the kid was good, his numbers showed it, and he got scratched in favor of what was left of Zdeno Chara. Now Siegs gets voted best defensive D. Unforgivable stupidity.
The problem I have with this is 1) we are currently struggling to win games, and 2) No way has McM earned the right to more ice time in the NHL. Stephenson, your example, was so much better and ready when he was given his chance. I’d like to at least win games so we have a chance to make the playoffs and then see what happens.
You have the talents and abilities of the players and then you have the coaches deciding how to use them. Is McM having a bad year because he has lost some of his abilities or confidence or is he having a bad year because of how Lavi has jerked him around and played or not played him? I don’t know and probably won’t ever know. Would Chandler and Siggy have blossomed here under Lavi’s control or did it take a change of scenery to accomplish that?
For CMM I think it is both as being jerked around and sitting for long periods does nothing for your confidence and one becomes rusty. Some players can handle that, usually older players not young players. Honestly he should, for his benefit, be sent to the minors where he could play daily.
If he’s not going to be allowed to play he should go to the minors, but (massive but) CMM is absolutely NHL ready. Full stop. All young players will make mistakes… it’s called being human. Talent comes to fruition from challenges. This is a coaching problem. CCM is no McDavid or Matthews, but I remember the first seasons from both those players being very questionable at times as they learned the NHL style of play.
Winning hockey games at this stage, with this team, in this shape, only gets the team close to a playoff spot. If they somehow luck into one, and history is not on their side, they’re one and done for a 5th straight year.
Winning games only takes away draft position. I can’t say actively rooting for the Caputals to lose, but losing games now is better for the future of the franchise.
Just read an article yesterday speculating on Gabby’s replacement. Article assumed that he would be gone by the end of the month and only question was his replacement.
Slightly off topic, but the future direction of this organization affects the immediate future of these two players, and all of the roster, for that matter:
It’s one week to American Thanksgiving. In the salary cap era, excluding lockout and COVID affected seasons, only 22.5% of teams that don’t hold a playoff position at American Thanksgiving make the playoffs. I’m guessing that the direction of the organization was to remain competitive until Ovi retires, probably after the 2025-26 season ends. They don’t want to be a losing franchise while Ovi continues his historic goal record chase. But circumstances, injuries mainly, may force their hand.
Could be an interesting summer ahead
Forgot to leave my name on the above replay. I’m not Anonymous!
The 22.5% stat is too vague, doesn’t account for a ton of variables. What percent of those had the easiest part of the schedule in the second half of the season, like the Capitals?
I’m not taking it as gospel. One of those 22.5% was the 2007-08 Capitals, and another was 2018-19 Stanley Cup winning Blues. But does anyone seriously think this current Caputals squad is capable of switching it on, and making the playoffs, after digging that deep of a hole? If it was a Caps squad from ten years ago, I’d say they have a shot. This old, slow, injury prone team doesn’t have much of one, and history is not on their side.
Yes both players are developing; however I think that being in Washington and playing under HC Lav has hurt McMichael in his development as he rarely plays and rarely plays his natural position. At least in Hershey Lapierre is playing his position. As the Caps are going nowhere fast it would make sense to either send McMichael to Hershey to play his position or trade Eller and let him have the 3rd live C position. Sad to say but the worst thing that happened to McMichael was being drafted by this team and having a HC who doesnt like young players. If the Caps are not going to use him properly then they should trade him so he could get to play and grow and maybe turn out like Chandler Stephenson.
Something has happened to CMac, Druid. While his scoring was relatively low last season (9g, 9a, 74 games) his ‘expected goals’ for was the best on the team. This season, starting in training camp, it has been the exact opposite. I wrote about it here back in October:
So what happened over the summer? Your argument that it is Laviolette is something to certainly be considered. I definitely wouldn’t rule it out at this point.
Even if something happened, a good coach is going to try and work on it and salvage the player. Look at how long the Caps played Sammy. As a Cap, on the ice. Benching McM isn’t accomplishing anything for the Caps or McM. So even if the cause isn’t Lavi’s fault, his failure to try different solutions is.
Thye cause is two fold 1) Lav doesnt like young players and 2) you sit a young player for games at a time and then play him out of position and on different lines. He is not a vet but someone trying to learn and how can he learn if he is on the bench for 10 games and then gets to play 2d line RW for a game , then sits 5 games and gets to play 3rd line LW? However a young player who is always scratched is not good for them as they need playing time and playing time at their natural position. Sad to say but Lav was a terrible hire for this team. The Caps are a funny organization where they hang onto players to long, hang unto players like Sammy rather than send them to the minors and trade players who they should keep.. Wondering if he was the only one willing to take what the Caps were willing to pay? The organization and CMM would best be served by either playing him all the time at C or sending him to the minors and let him play everyday.
McMichael and Lapierre are 2 totally different players and that couldn’t be a better situation for the Caps future. Lapierre is a puck carrier / playmaker, McMichael is a sniper / 2 way center. McMichael has a Laviolette problem in Washington and it’s incredibly painful to watch. I remember a similar situation with Trotz and Vrana years ago. I swear McMichael is trying to prove his defensive game to Lavi this year and is not taking chances offensively. I also think he’s not with the right linemates or even getting the proper amount of ice time for that matter. Laviolette needs to unleash him, give him some freedom to make mistakes. He’ll get his confidence and get back to that goal scoring he was doing in juniors and in Hershey.