A Review Of Connor McMichael’s Game At The Quarter Pole

I originally wrote about the recent discernible decline in Connor McMichael’s game back on October 24 (here), so it’s worthy of an update at this point in the season. I’ll quickly revisit his stats from last season, the turning point in his game and provide an update on his stats at this point in the season.

2021-22 SEASON

Regardless of your thoughts about McMichael and his abilities, he had a pretty good 2021-22 season. He recorded 9 goals and 9 assists in 74 games and led the entire team in expected goals for percentage (xGF%) for the entire season. That’s a fairly decent rookie campaign.

Possibly the only real knock on McMichael’s game from the 2021-22 season was his ability to “finish” on those chances he was creating, as he was dead last on the team in goals differential (Goals for minus expected goals for).

All in all, McMichael was primed for a breakout sophomore campaign. He had a full season under his belt and a better understanding of the league. But so far, that hasn’t materialized.


As we noted in the original post back in October, a noticeable shift in McMichael’s performance was first realized during the 2022-23 pre-season. McMichael appeared in four preseason games, recorded just four shots, no goals and just one assist. He also posted the second worst expected goals for percentage (43.59%) among all forwards to make the Capitals opening night roster.

Very uncharacteristic for McMichael. Something appears to have changed from the end of last season and the start of training camp and the preseason. But again, it was just the preseason and a relatively small sample size. We need more data.

2022-23 SEASON

The first quarter of the season has seen McMichael’s downward trend continue. He’s appeared intermittently in six of the Capitals 19 games so far this season. In last night’s game against the Blues in St. Louis, a game in which the Capitals dominated possession, McMichael was the only Capitals player with an xGF% below 50%.

McMichael also posted a team-low 8:01 of time on ice in Thursday’s game against the Blues. Is this the issue or a symptom? That remains to be seen.


The following graph plots the expected goals for percentage (xGF%) for each of the Capitals skaters for the first 19 games of the season. [Click to enlarge].

McMichael’s decline has continued. He has by far the worst expected goals for percentage among all Capitals skaters at this point in the season. Again, very uncharacteristic of McMichael.

The next graph plots the expected goals for minus expected goals against for each of the Capitals skaters through the first 19 games of the season:

Once again, McMichael finds himself at the bottom. Again, very uncharacteristic of his game.


As you can see the decline has continued for McMichael. Is it due to his new part time role? Possibly, although McMichael thrived playing (inexplicably) minor minutes last season. Does he need to play every day to reach his potential. Also very possible, but very difficult to accurately determine at this point.

Is there another issue or issues at play? Also very possible. What’s changed since the end of last season? That’s a much harder question to answer.

Because we closely track and watch games for each and every Capitals prospect from their draft day forward, I’ve had the pleasure of closely following McMichaels development over the last three years, including his time with the London Knights in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and all of his games in Hershey. He has NHL-level skills and is an NHL-caliber player. I firmly believe that. But something has changed.

To me, I see a player with a lot less confidence this season, something that fueled his play in the OHL, on the Canadian Junior team and during his time in Hershey. He will likely return to Hershey in the coming days, possibly when Dmitry Orlov returns, so hopefully he can restore his confidence while in Chocolate town. He’ll be back in DC.

[The statistics used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.]

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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17 Responses to A Review Of Connor McMichael’s Game At The Quarter Pole

  1. Anonymous says:

    I always wonder when I see unexplainable changes like this, if a player needs glasses. Silly I know, but he’s at that age.

  2. Anonymous says:

    He’ll get it together. I know Connor is an NHL player.

  3. Gs says:

    He can’t finish, it’s a massive problem as you noted, i think less playing time and being haunted by so many missed goals is affecting him.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Give him some time at Center with good wingers. Stop wasting him at wing with Eller. Nothing good happens with that combination. Hate this GM and HC except that they will leave their successors with a good draft pick next draft.

  5. novafyre says:

    Won’t with current Caps staff.

  6. novafyre says:

    I think last year he played his Hershey game and was stung by all the comments in articles and comments about his inability to finish. As I remember, it was pretty constant and pretty rough. This year he’s trying to play Lavi’s game and it just doesn’t suit him. Ursain Bolt and Mo Farah are both Olympic gold medal runners, but Ursain won’t win marathons and Mo won’t win sprints. And the more problems McMichael has adapting (and sitting), the worse it’s going to get. Square peg, round hole.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Course overcorrection trades following sophomore slumps generally end badly with first rounders. The anti-McMichael fans need to learn patience imo (esp since they’re the ones who will be calling for heads to roll if he does get traded only to succeed elsewhere)

  8. GRin430 says:

    There may be more to this than any of us are seeing. Both Protas and Mikey were moved to the wing… Protas has embraced the change and thrived, Mikey, not so much. Yeah, they have different skillsets, but they might also have different attitudes/mindsets.

    McMichael needs to go down to Hershey to figure it out. Let him play center down there, and see what happens. If he doesn’t turn it around, he should be packaged with some of the old farts, er, I mean veteran players, if/when the Caps clean house at the deadline this year.

    Methinks there is a BIG spring cleaning event coming in a few months, including coaching and front office. This team is not playing well, particularly in the defensive and neutral zones, and it isn’t because of a lack of physical talent. Either they aren’t suited to Lavi’s man-to-man D scheme (Trotz uses a zone scheme) or they just aren’t willing to put in the effort any more, as evidenced by certain players, particularly a couple of forwards from a certain large Eurasian country, not really playing much defense lately. It’s pretty hard to play effective man-man defense if a couple of the guys on the ice aren’t much interested in helping the other three…

    Note also the large number of blind, poorly conceived passes in the D and neutral zones from a large number of the defensemen and forwards. That isn’t the system — there is no system from any coach that calls for bad passing. That’s players just not interested in cleaning up their game and playing the right way.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      McMichael is 21, still developing, so trading doesn’t make sense to me at all. Why give up on a first round draft pick 50% developed. If that was the case we would have traded Tom Wilson long before he fully developed.

      I agree, the passing has been maddening. I love CMac, but that non-chelant pass last night that almost led to a Blues goal was really bad.

  9. hockeydruid says:

    Limited playing time and playing out o position have hurt CMM. For that I blame the HC and GM for keeping him in Wash rather than sending him to Hershey where he would get to play not oly his position but every day. Yes some players are ok with moving up and down the lineup but CMM has shown he is no and is not comfortable playing 2nd rw one game and then 3LW the next. Sad to say but the HC is just out of touch with hi s players as it is play my way and where I want you. To me it would be logical to move Eller to wing, as he is older and can easily adapt and then play CMM at 3rd C where he belongs. Sad to say but at this point with a lame duck HC and a GM not doing anything and a team riddled with injuries the only thing going for this team is a high draft pick and Ovie chasing the scoring record. There is no need to even think playoffs with this team as being one and done like the past few years helps them not at all but instead loses draft position. Now is the time to start playing the young guys in Hershey to see what they have for next season especially with 13 UFA and RFA on the roster. Unless the GM goes out and signs a ton of older free agents over the summer this is going to be a young team with less salary cap problems next season. So for those of you that dont check out Hershey start now!!

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      It’s been challenging finding hard data/stats to better define the cause. Without it, it’s mostly speculation. He played center and wing last season and thrived, and as I noted in post, he played (for some unexplainable reason) minor minutes per game last season.

      I agree about 3C. Was fairly convinced that the Caps were going to jettison Eller and have CMac take over, but injuries, I guess, put a squash to that idea.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Not sure I would say Protas has thrived. He looks more comfortable but still has just 4 points and is a minus player. Has been given more opportunities than CMC with better line mates. Not sure he is much more trusted than CMC.

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