The First round pick for the Washington Capitals in 2019 was a steal. It brought in a point-friendly center in Connor McMichael, who with his skill can help the Capitals avoid the dreaded re-build. McMichael has month by month since then developed as a top-tiered prospect, pushing himself to become an NHL ready player.
In his first season in the OHL in 17-18, McMichael had a below average (NHL prospect average) 16 points in 60 games with 2 separate teams. In his next season he made a vast improvement being with the London Knights joining the >1PPG club with 72 points in 67 games. After the 18-19 season McMichael continued to show incredible improvement.
The 19-20 season, after being picked by the Capitals McMichael played an insane OHL season, leading the league at several times throughout the season and ending in 3rd place with 102 points in only 52 games. McMichael almost ended the season with a goal per game having 47 finishes and 55 assists along with a +32 rating.
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Fortunately for the Capitals, McMichael hasn’t only showed promise in the OHL. McMichael has now competed in two IIHF World Junior Championships, winning his first and losing the second in a 2-0 effort to the USA in the Gold Medal game. McMichael put up 7 points in 7 GP with a +2 in his first tournament and 8 points in 7 with a nice looking +8 in the following tournament.
The young Capital continued to improve with the Hershey Bears this year, earning himself a first rookie team spot for the AHL and a nice stat line of 14 goals and 13 assists in 33 games. Hershey Coach Spencer Carbery has preached several times the improvement McMichael has shown along with his potential shot at making the Capitals main team.
So where could we fit in a guy who has mainly played 1st and 2nd line roles his whole career?
As we know, the Caps are looking to add some youth to a veteran packed team, but should it be McMichael? One thing I saw watching Hershey, Canada and Pre-season games, is McMichael plays much more comfortably at Center over a winger. Not to say he wont be able to play winger, but to start him at Center would be good for getting himself settled in and comfortable with the NHL team.
With the future of Kuznetsov looming, McMichael could end up with a chance to play with some higher skill players like Oshie, Mantha, Wilson or maybe even Ovechkin. Ideally McMichael plays with a physical forward like Wilson or Mantha who can create space and a feeling of comfort for the young center. McMichael showed he can be the goal scorer on the line or he can play a set-up man, feeding passes into places that give his teammates good chances to score.
Imagining a line of TJ Oshie, Anthony Mantha and Connor McMichael brings a smile to my face. Mantha is a beautiful passer who also plays as a top line power forward who creates and finds space for his teammates. Oshie, similar to McMichael plays an all around game, helping out defensively when his Centers struggle (very well may happen to McMichael) while also having an eye for the back of the net whether its a shot or pass. McMichael would fit extremely well with these two, having space created, able to set up his line-mates and of course with passers like Oshie and Mantha, scoring the puck.