ARLINGTON Va. — Washington Capitals forward Hendrix Lapierre is soaking in every moment of being an NHL center. Lapierre was called up from the Hershey Bears on Oct. 29 after the Capitals placed Nic Dowd on injured-reserve. The 2020 first-round pick was off to a great start in Chocolate Town racking up three assists in six games.
Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery said that the reports from Bears head coach Todd Nelson were positive and Lapierre was able to play in all situations, whether on the power play, penalty kill or at even strength.
if you needed some “run through a wall” content for this evening pic.twitter.com/pFhnuWzCzg
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 9, 2023
“It’s been really fun. Obviously everyday here is a privilege. It’s something that I don’t take for granted. I try to work every day to stay in the lineup and prove that I can be here and help the team win,” Lapierre said in a one-on-one. “I feel like I have my speed. I’m playing relatively good hockey and just gonna keep going and keep proving that I can help this team.”
Lapierre does not have a point in four games with Washington. The Quebec native is known to be a highly skilled playmaker but has had to make some adjustments to stick at the NHL level. The 21-year-old had to focus on making subtle plays in the corners and coming up with loose pucks.
“Those small touches are kind of underrated and it’s something that the best players have,” Lapierre said. “I try to work on that a lot and obviously practice it and then in the game I feel comfortable. I can be a little better I think with those kinds of things, but it’s been good, and I keep working on that stuff and to get better.”
His best game to date was on Nov. 4 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. His line composed of Beck Malenstyn and Matthew Phillips had three high-danger scoring opportunities and Lapierre was responsible for one of them.
“I think Laps’ confidence has grown throughout the games that he’s played. You’re starting to see him make those little plays consistently,” Malenstyn said. “He’s a player with a lot of skill that can get in and out of those tight areas under pressure and make a high skill play out of it. So playing with him you just have to be able to read and react and get into those spots and he seems to find those holes. I’m really happy for him.”
Malenstyn knows as well as anyone as to how difficult getting into the corners and winning those 50/50 puck battles can be. The biggest thing is to be aware of your surroundings and knowing where your linemates are.
“Having awareness of what’s around you going into those positions. You’re obviously going into a highly congested area with d-men on top of you and just having good chemistry with your linemates knowing that you’re going to have somebody behind the net or in the slot and where those [outlets] are before you get yourself into that position is huge,” Malenstyn said.
“You can pick up the puck and basically know where you’re going with it before it happens. But I think a lot of that just comes from communication, you know, when your face is up against the glass, having someone who’s talking to you on your back helps a lot, knowing where they’re gonna be,” he added.
It appears Lapierre will be sticking with the main club for the foreseeable future with Nicklas Backstrom likely out for the remainder of the season. Lapierre is going to make the most of this opportunity and show the Capitals’ management what he is capable of in the near future.
By Jacob Cheris