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For Capitals’ McMichael, Being Hard On Himself Is A Good Thing



Washington Capitals Connor McMichael

ARLINGTON, V.A. — Washington Capitals forward Connor McMichael is a fan of pressure. He affirms that as he sits in his gear at his stall in an almost empty locker room, which is the result of him staying on the ice long after practice for extra work.

It’s been part of a strange routine to open 2022-23 for the 21-year-old, who has been a healthy scratch for seven of eight games so far. With him being out of the lineup, critics have wondered why he hasn’t gone to the AHL to get more playing time with the Hershey Bears, and also question what the lack of ice time means for his development. McMichael has shut that noise out, and though he admits he can get down on himself, he sees it as a positive.

“I like to be hard on myself. I know what I’m capable of in my game, and what I expect for myself,” McMichael said. “It’s not bad to be hard on yourself. Sometimes, to kind of push yourself to that next level, that’s something I kind of try and find the balance of. Not trying to be too hard on myself [as] I’m still learning and growing my game.”

Last season, McMichael cracked the opening night roster and saw his fair share of ups and downs in his rookie year, from inconsistencies to scratches to limited ice time. In 68 games, he finished with nine goals and nine assists while averaging just around 10 minutes per game while getting a majority of his time at left wing.

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The team is a fan of him at the center position, and going into this year, Washington wanted to see him win a full-time center spot. He wasn’t able to do that in camp and had an underwhelming preseason, which ultimately led to him losing the 2C center job to Dylan Strome while Lars Eller maintained his role at 3C. As a result, he has sat out, as the team doesn’t necessarily want him to play at wing.

“He’s a good kid who works hard every day. When we have used him he’s played well,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. There’s always decisions about drawing into the lineup and who goes in the position that’s available… Mikey, he’s a good player that’s developing, that’s getting better as he stays here and practices and plays games and gathers experience. He’ll continue to grow and get better.”

McMichael has played in just one game this season, where he recorded his first NHL fight and skated 8:33 in a disappointing 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators. While it wasn’t an ideal first showing, No. 24 is ready to capitalize on his next chance and show how he’s improved from last year.

“It felt good to get those reps and come into this year with a lot more confidence, just familiarity with the guys and in the league,” McMichael said of his freshman campaign. “You kind of just want to build off the foundation. You use the cement [from] last year. It was tough for me coming in last year and learning all the systems and getting used to the NHL lifestyle. So this year, it’s kind of just growing on that. Like I said, building on that foundation to get my game to where I want it to be.”

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Going forward, McMichael is staying positive amid adversity. There are no current plans to send him to Hershey to continue his development, and the coaching staff wants him to hold his head high and be ready for his next chance. And as he waits for that opportunity, he’s keeping things even-keel while battling each day to show what he can do.

“I’m a hard-working, goofy kid. I just like having a good time, I like cracking jokes here,” McMichael said. “I don’t like being in situations where it’s too serious; I like when guys are loose, I enjoy having a fun time.”