Hendrix Lapierre’s childhood dreams became a reality in 2020 when the Washington Capitals took him in the first round. The highly-touted prospect, who grew up idolizing Alex Ovechkin, pulled on his first NHL jersey.
This past season, he moved one step closer to that NHL dream and is preparing to make even more progress as he heads for a change in scenery.
The Chicoutimi Saguenéens, who drafted Lapierre first overall in 2018, traded him and a 2023 seventh-rounder to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan for forwards Julien Bourget and Alexis Dubé, as well as 2022 and 2023 first-rounders, a 2022 third-round pick and 2023 fourth-round selection.
In 2019, Lapierre, a potential top-10 pick, suffered a concussion and later dealt with neck issues that sidelined him for a majority of 2019-20. As a result, his play dropped off and he registered just two goals and 17 points in 19 games. That was enough to spook other teams, and his draft stock plummeted. However, general manager Brian MacLellan saw something different. He saw a player with the potential to become a top-6 center, and traded up to take him 22nd overall.
Right now, it seems that MacLellan made the right choice.
The 19-year-old had a breakthrough in 2020-21. Through 21 regular-season games, he dished eight goals and 31 points and stayed healthy. Not only did he shake off injury fears, he went on to record 12 points in nine playoff games before Chicoutimi fell in the second round.
Over the course of the regular season, Lapierre was producing at a rate of 1.48 PPG. In a normal 68-game year, he would have been on pace for a 100-point campaign.
Beyond his numbers, Lapierre improved in a lot of different areas of his game. The playmaker showcased his speed and quick hands. He also put his hockey IQ and vision on full display with strong plays and quick decisions on the fly. He also proved to be a tremendous puck carrier and impressed with his solid two-way play.
Though Lapierre’s a passer first, he grew more confident in his shot. He went hard to the net and called his own number more often. In the end, he ended up with 64 shots on goal for an average of about three SOG per game.
Hendrix Lapierre has now surpassed his goal total from last season.
It's game two. pic.twitter.com/jd8PPmwAEX
— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) October 4, 2020
Beyond that, the Quebec native gained plenty of experience, playing both center and wing this past season. While he’s more comfortable at center, he made plenty of progress with his versatility and willingness to expand his game. That’ll be a major key and plus when it’s time to transition to the next level.
He earned an invite to the Capitals’ training camp in January and picked up right where he left off when he returned to the QMJHL with three points in his first game back. It’s a great sign for Washington, who needs significant depth down the middle as the team faces questions in regard to Evgeny Kuznetsov’s future and the expansion draft.
Lapierre faces a tall task with a new team and a full season uninterrupted by the pandemic. All he has to do is carry over the momentum from this past season. He has one more year until he’s eligible to play in the AHL (junior players must be 20 years old by Dec. 31). While he could technically get NHL ice time if Peter Laviolette deems him worthy of a spot on the Capitals’ opening night roster, more time in the QMJHL will serve him well.