Hendrix Lapierre, The AHL Rookie “Wall” And Stretching The Envelope

The American Hockey League (AHL) season is unlike any other hockey season a newcomer to the AHL has experienced. Three games in three days, long bus trips and an even longer season make it all extremely challenging for AHL rookies, on an off the ice. Not to mention the increase in physical play against bigger, much older, experienced players.

As a result of the huge leap made by an AHL rookie, a “wall” is often encountered. The season starts off fairly well, but somewhere along the way their is a a drop-off. Production sinks, injuries occur and overall performance drops. It appears Capitals forward prospect Hendrix Lapierre may have hit that rookie wall, at least at this point in the season.

While there are no formal “wall” stats to look at, there is evidence available. Below are Lapierre’s stats for the first 25 games of the 2022-23 season and the last 26 games of the season.

Lapierre began the season averaging 2.6 shots and .28 goals per game. That has dropped by more than half in the last 26 games to 1.23 shots and .12 goals per game. He has no goals in the last 15 games and just two goals in the 2023 calendar year. As a byproduct, Lapierre was a healthy scratch for a few games in February.

However, and more importantly, it should also be noted that Lapierre has dealt with shortened season’s over his entire career, primarily due to injuries and the Covid pandemic. His season high in games for his career 54.

There are still a handful of games remaining in the Hershey Bears regular season, and postseason games ahead as well, so a resurgence for Lapierre is certainly not impossible.

But the important thing for me, as a prospect analyst, is that Lapierre finishes the season as strong as he can, but more importantly, he stretches his “envelope” of games played in a season. If he ends up playing 60-70 games, that’s a very successful year in my book, regardless of any additional scoring.

Lapierre flashed his brilliance on the ice quite a bit in the early part of the season, so we have a good idea of his potential. He just needs to get to the point of playing more games in a calendar year.

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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11 Responses to Hendrix Lapierre, The AHL Rookie “Wall” And Stretching The Envelope

  1. Anonymous says:

    Good post. I think it’s always underestimated the leap from juniors to AHL.

    • novafyre says:

      That’s the edge I feel players coming from the overseas leagues have. Downside for them is English skills and rink size.

      • Jon Sorensen says:

        It’s a valid point. But don’t they play longer seasons in Europe? I need to check, i forgot the normal number of games.

        • novafyre says:

          I believe that they do which is why I said that I feel playing over there gives them an edge — they are used to longer seasons. I think also the range in ages is higher so they get to play with and against more mature players. But they don’t play on a North American sized rink and, for some, arrive here not knowing any English.

          That is why I prefer to have “NHL ready” players from Euro or Russian leagues spend a year in Hershey first. Geography, NA culture, English, NA rink and style of play.

          • KimRB says:

            Good points about the language and culture. I tuned in late to the Ovi tribute the other night, and wondered who the Russian was that was narrating, only to realize the heavy accent belonged to Backstrom. I guess Nick isn’t linguistically gifted, since most Swedes speak excellent English (TV shows are broadcast in English, and they learn it in school). Nicklas Lidstrom, for example, speaks perfect American accented English. Even Belarusian Aliaksei Protas speaks with a better accent than Backstrom.

            Former Cap Gaetan Duchesne said he arrived in DC as a 19 year old, speaking only French. The negative experience so affected him, that he took newly arrived Czech defector Michal Pivonka into his house, to help him assimilate. Pivonka then passed on the goodwill by taking Ukrainian-Slovakian Peter Bondra in.

            • novafyre says:

              Back in the 50s I visited a couple who were Swedish high school English teachers and learned that English was compulsory there. So yes, I was very surprised at Nicky’s English.

              On the cultural side, when my mother asked them what she could send them as thanks, they asked for peanut butter. They had spent time in the States and fell in love with it but could not get it in Sweden. I’m sure that even today there are Swedish things that Nicky finds hard to get here.

        • Diane Doyle says:

          In the number of games, the KHL season is shorter. But there are numerous breaks for international tournaments of which many KHL players participate in at least one.

  2. Anonymous says:

    He’s fallen way off. Hope he’s ok.

  3. novafyre says:

    ECHL announcers have been discussing this as they have a number of college grads on their rosters. “NCAA teams are allowed to play 34 games during the regular season, not including conference postseason tournaments and the NCAA tournament. Conferences may impose further restrictions. Some in-season tournaments, special games and games played in Alaska are exempted from the 34-game limit.”

    Big difference going up to the 72 games in the ECHL.

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