Washington Capitals forward prospect Hendrix Lapierre is no stranger to mental and physical battles. Throughout his career, he has suffered injuries, which forced his draft stock to fall. The Capitals selected the 21-year-old forward with the No. 22 overall selection in the 2020 NHL draft despite the potential risk.
Heading into the 2021-22 season, Lapierre made the team out of training camp and scored his first NHL goal in his first ever game. He ended up playing in six contests before getting sent back down to the QMJHL. He made the most of his last junior season, racking up 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists) in 40 games for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
But there is a difference between ups and downs, and ups and downs as a pro hockey player. After a strong start to the year with the Hershey Bears, Lapierre started to cool off in December and January, and eventually sat out for games in February.
“Lappy’s sitting out, just because, right now he is frustrated. We kinda wanna use this as a reset button for him. He’s a great kid, he’s a student of the game,” Bears coach Todd Nelson said. “We just want him to watch the game from up top. Watch the intensity of the players playing. We just feel that his intensity has to rise up. That’s very common with a young player like him. He’ll get back in the lineup very soon.”
Lapierre has yet to play a full season in his career due to injuries. The 2022-23 season was the closest he had got to a full campaign, playing 60 out of 72 regular season games and He finished the regular season with 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) and added three goals and three assists in 20 postseason games. It was a very respectable year for the young forward.
“I don’t know what happened. I was just maybe a little in my head. But I think when I had a couple talks with the coaches of what they really expected of me and then I started practicing harder which made the games kind of easier,” Lapierre said. “I’m a guy who makes plays. I’m a guy who passes the puck, uses speed and that’s what I was trying to do and I had success and I want to keep going.”
When the postseason came around, Lapierre was quiet for the majority of the Bears’ run to their 12th Calder Cup championship. But he stepped up when it mattered most. In Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals against the Coachella Valley Firebirds, Hershey trailed 2-0 and the Gatineau, Quebec native tied the game at two late in the second period.
But for Lapierre, seeing his veteran teammates stay composed in the tense moments was the biggest takeaway from his rookie season.
“You see guys are just so composed and no one has too high of emotions too low. So for me as a young guy seeing like, let’s say McIlrath and [Aaron] Ness and those guys like we’re not gonna stress, we’re just gonna keep pounding the stone and eventually good things will happen. I think it was kind of like eye opening,” Lapierre said. “I think our run helped a lot and I’m extremely grateful to have been a part of that team.”
Lapierre had six points (three goals, three assists) in 20 playoff games. This upcoming season he looks to be a more consistent offensive threat and also take on a leadership role for what should be another successful season for the Chocolate and White.
By Jacob Cheris