The most intriguing storyline to come out of this season’s Training Camp quickly became the battle of Hendrix Lapierre vs Connor McMichael to determine which of the talented young centers would fill in for Nicklas Backstrom who will miss at least 10 games after being placed on LTIR by the Washington Capitals.
McMichael is largely viewed as the organization’s top prospect and was the favorite to fill-in for Backstrom when it became apparent that he would miss time. However, after Lapierre impressed in his preseason debut and continued to perform incredibly well throughout camp. Lapierre made a strong case as to why he should be the guy and Peter Laviolette agreed.
McMichael also made the team, and will likely slot in for Alex Ovechkin on the team’s top-line if Ovechkin isn’t ready to play tonight against the New York Rangers. However, it appears that Ovechkin will play.
Hendrix Lapierre was the team’s first-round selection in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Injury concerns had the top-10 talent fall to the bottom half of the first-round where the Capitals selected him 22nd overall. So far, it looks like Brian MacLellan’s decision to draft the 19-year-old is paying off, registering five assists during the preseason, Lapierre was a difference-maker every time he was on the ice. He has won the respect of his teammates and his head coach.
“He skated really well, he moved the puck really well,” Oshie said of Lapierre. “I thought for the most part we weren’t really in our own end and a lot of that was because of his skating through the middle, making great plays. He actually had two super nice plays to me in the middle and I didn’t quite read them fast enough. I had to get used to his hockey IQ, which seems pretty high. I thought he did a great job.”
After only his second preseason game, Laviolette was impressed with the way that Lapierre played and the improvements he made in his first game.
“I thought he was better tonight than he was last game,” Peter Laviolette said. “[And] he was good last game. I thought he did a better job competing on pucks. I thought he did a better job in the faceoff circle. You could notice his speed with the puck and how he attacked the game, able to generate some offense. Another good showing.”
In what is sure to be a hard-fought hockey game, it is once again time for Hendrix Lapierre to step up and prove his doubters wrong.