If the Washington Capitals want to have success long after their current stars leave or retire they are going to need their young guys to step up. One guy that is in the crosshairs when it comes to stepping up is Connor McMichael. He is a former first round pick, and that comes a big amount of pressure from the team that selects you.
It’s a little funny how different we treat players just based on where they are picked in the draft. McMichael was taken 25th overall in his draft year. If he was taken just ten picks later, down at 35, he probably wouldn’t have as much pressure. But fans of all sports love themselves some first round picks, and if they fail or if the team “missed” on them, oh boy. Watch out!
That is the position McMichael finds himself in. We will likely also be adding Hendrix Lapierre to this discussion soon I would think. He will be a different story for a different day.
McMichael is the most exciting prospect the Capitals have, if you can even call him a prospect anymore. He played in 68 games last season, the term prospect can mean a lot to different people. The point is, he is still young and growing.
Last season in the 68 games he played in he was able to put up 9 goals and chip in with 9 assists for a grand total of 18 points. Those were not too bad numbers. Would you have liked a little more? Sure, no doubt. But that is still solid for a 20 or 21-year-old in his first NHL season.
Look at guys who were much higher touted coming out of junior. John Tavares scored 24 goals and 54 points in his rookie season. Jack Eichel scored 24 goals and 56 points in his first year. Even someone a little more recent and statistically more comparable, Jack Hughes in his 61 games in his rookie season scored just 7 goals and 21 points. That isn’t much higher than McMichael. Lower in goals even.
I don’t get the feeling that there is anybody out there who is doubting McMichael. I’m just saying this. Every prospect has their own development curve. It will hit sooner with some than others. Even some of the very best will take a season or two, maybe even three before they hit their boom.
I think that is what we should look at when looking at a Connor McMichael.
Would Capitals fans love if the young center came out this season and scored thirty plus goals and sixty plus points? Absolutely! That would be great, terrific, and wonderful. Put in some different words and maybe some expletives in there if that’s your thing. For a young guy trying to find his way in the best league in the world that would be fun to watch.
Odds are that probably won’t happen. It still could, but I would aim low for him.
That then begs the question. What would a good season from Connor McMichael look like? The key word in there is good. Not great, and not “eh”.
For me, when I look at McMichael I want him to double his production or nearly double his totals from last season. He scored 9 goals last season, I would look for 15-20 this season. He scored 18 points last season, that means 30-40 this season. The exact numbers I have in my head are 17 goals and 36 points. Somewhere in there.
Something I think we also have to consider is where McMichael plays and even how much he plays. If he gets healthy scratched, nearly at all this season it would be a pretty big disappointment in my eyes. Maybe a couple of times just to get him to reset if he needs it, but anything like last season would be a setback. At least to me.
McMichael needs ice time. He also needs some ice time at center. It looks like he will probably line up in a third line wing position to start the year next to Lars Eller. Or fourth line wing based on the combinations at today’s practice. If I’m the Capitals I try to give him as much time at center as possible. Ideally, he and Eller go 50/50 split for the season. I would guess that is probably not going to happen.
Eller is getting older and his production may be falling and you also have Backstrom who we have no idea when he is coming back and when he does we don’t know how he will look. If the Capitals want to have McMichael at center in the future, the future could be right around the corner. Get him time in the middle to get him comfortable. I would personally start him in the middle and you always have that security blanket that is Eller right there with him.
I would also argue that maybe if he plays at center that could result in his numbers dropping a little bit as he could focus on playing a more well rounded game. A more 200 foot game rather than playing on the wing and letting Eller take care of the hard work a center is more responsible for. I would keep that in mind.
Lastly, I thought McMichael looked good last season. Just watching him on the ice you could tell the kid can play. Going forward he generated chances and that showed up on the stats sheet.
Last season he had 113 individual scoring chances. That was tied for second on the entire Capitals team. He was behind only Alex Ovechkin and tied with Evgeny Kuznetsov. He had the same amount of chances as Kuznetsov had. McMichael had less than 700 minutes of ice time while Kuznetsov had over 1,100 minutes.
He was also tied for the team lead in individual high danger chances. He finished the season tied with Garnet Hathaway of all people with 60 high danger chances. Again, that was more than Ovechkin. Three more to be exact. He had eight more than Kuznetsov.
To be fair, those guys do tend to be more perimeter players and they are still very good while playing that way. Even Ovechkin’s office on the power play I’m not certain is considered a “high danger area”, by my measurement it is just outside.
The point here being, for a 20 and 21-year-old to be among or be the leader in a couple of, what I would consider important stats, that is pretty impressive. That goes to something he can improve on and hope he gets more support on. Finishing.
The way McMichael plays I wouldn’t be surprised if he finished towards the top in those two stats again. What young players need to work on though is converting on their opportunities. If he can do that it shouldn’t be that hard for him to increase his production from his rookie season. The on ice play was there. Just finish your chances more and hope when you set up a teammate they can finish as well.
While 5v5 last season McMichael’s shooting percentage was just 7.69%. Get that up to around ten, if not over and better than ten.
It is all there for Connor McMichael. He looks like he could be a good NHL player. But he is still young. We don’t need him to go out there and put up a thirty goal season and well over fifty points.
I personally do not enjoy the betting game. I don’t really enjoy the guessing game either. That is not what I am doing with Michael either. I am not guessing what he will get. This is just my own humble opinion of what a good season would look like from him statistically.
15-20 goals, 30-40 points with a good amount of time at center. That would be a good and in my opinion successful season from Connor McMichael.