Regardless Of Production Connor McMichael Needs To Play

Connor McMichael, Washington Capitals (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
Connor McMichael, Washington Capitals (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

No one exactly knows what is best for hockey prospects. There is not one method to follow, there isn’t a process that works for everybody. Everyone is different, each kid or guy will develop as quickly or slowly as he needs. The Washington Capitals prospects are the same, and that includes Connor McMichael.

McMichael had a pretty good rookie season. When you look at his traditional stats they don’t look super impressive. He had nine goals and 18 points in 68 games played. You can’t really use traditional stats to determine how well a prospect did. You can’t and shouldn’t expect most prospects to come in and put up goals and points right away.

The eye test, at least in my opinion, showed McMichael looking good more nights than not last season. The way he played showed us he had potential. Other stats will show that. 

While on the ice his shot attempts percentage was 52.24%, his scoring chance for percentage was 54.12%, his high danger attempts percentage was 55.34% and his expected goals for percentage was 56.45%. As you can see, those numbers just kept getting better and better. He also put up 113 individual scoring chances which was tied for second on the entire team. Evgeny Kuznetsov also had 113 and Alex Ovechkin led the way with 205.

The eye test and the more simple advanced stats showed us what McMichael can do. Coming into this season I was pretty excited to see what kind of steps he would take, hopefully in the right direction. So far, fifteen games into the season, he has not taken steps in the right direction. Mostly because he has not gotten a fair shot to do so.

If there is one complaint that I think we all should share I think it is this. Connor McMichael needs to play. Having a 21-year-old prospect or player that you have higher hopes for sitting for eleven of your first fifteen games is not a good idea. Not for the player or the potential future of your franchise.

You have to play the kid somewhere, whether he is producing or not. In my opinion he is NHL ready. The way he played last season showed he could play at the highest level. Maybe he didn’t produce as much as some people would want but he didn’t look lost out there.

Producing, again, shouldn’t be the be all end all for someone like him right now. When this team is fully healthy the Capitals shouldn’t need him to produce either. Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Oshie, Mantha, Strome has proven he can contribute, as has Johansson, Sheary can put up goals and points, Wilson will when he returns, Eller can contribute some, the fourth line has proven they can go out and get some goals as well, there are plenty of offensive options on this team and we haven’t even mentioned the high scoring defenseman Carlson, and Orlov being able to chip in some as well.

You never know how long it will take for young guys to figure out how to put up points in the NHL. Lets look at some players from the past that were drafted much higher than McMichael, had much higher expectations and ended up being some of the best players in NHL history.

How about Joe Thornton. “Jumbo Joe” had 3 goals and 7 points in 55 games in his rookie season. The next season, in terms of point scoring it’s not like he figured it out and exploded and turned into the hall of famer we know. His second season he scored 16 goals and 41 points in 81 games. Good numbers, and he clearly took a step, which is what you hope for.

Henrik Sedin took even longer to turn into a legend. In his rookie season he had 9 goals and 29 points in 82 games. In the next three seasons he had 36, 39 and 42 points. Sedin didn’t have his first really good season until his fifth NHL season in 2005-06 where he then scored 18 goals and 75 points in 82 games.

Again, I am not comparing McMichael to either of these guys. Thornton was drafted number one overall in 1997 and Sedin was selected third overall in 1999. One, that was a long time ago, two, those guys had much higher expectations and ceilings than McMichael has.

The point I am making here is simple. Just because we are now in year two of McMichael as an NHL player doesn’t mean we should expect him to start tearing things up. Those two players are just two of I’m sure a lot more players who took multiple years to start putting up some really good numbers.

Whether he is putting up points or not, he needs to play.

Especially now when I am writing this. The Capitals are missing at least four forwards. Since they have ended up with all of those injuries McMichael still hasn’t gotten a chance to be an everyday player.

If you want to argue that there is not room for McMichael when this team is healthy then fine. I can accept that argument. But not now. This team signed players to fill in for the injured players instead of giving their own young player a shot.

McMichael needs to play, somewhere. If not the NHL then send him to the AHL. Sitting a young player this long is a good way to ruin his development. It’s hard to figure out the pro game without playing the pro game.

There is an opportunity right now. There are a lot of players out due to injury, if he can’t get into the lineup now then when will he? Have the coaches and management already given up on him?

If you are going to argue that McMichael doesn’t deserve to play I will never understand. He is a young player. If this team is fully healthy he should be playing. There are a ton of players who can score which will mean he won’t need to and he can figure out the pro game without the pressure of needing to contribute.

If this team is injury riddled, like they are now he should be the absolute first guy getting a jersey. Instead, he has apparently fallen so far down the depth chart that even when the Capitals are missing four forwards he still will not get into the lineup.

That is not good news for anyone. Not for McMichael, the fans or the franchise. It is not good to have one of your top prospects not playing.

In order to develop you need to play. You hear the pros say it all the time. When they start a new season or when they are trying to return from an injury. Practice is not playing. You cannot simulate the game in practice. In order to get more comfortable and confident in game situations you need to play the actual game.

light. Trending. Peter Laviolette enters COVID protocol

Whether it be in the AHL or in the NHL where I think he belongs, Connor McMichael needs to play. Sitting for this long and this frequently won’t do anything for him.