ARLINGTON, V.A. – Fellow Washington Capitals first-rounders and centers Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre were in the thick of a competition for a roster spot at 2021 training camp, but they didn’t let that take a toll.
To this day, McMichael and Lapierre, despite a roster competition early on, have formed a strong bond that they continue to carry with them.
“Me and Lappy have a really good friendship,” McMichael said, adding that the two still keep in touch with Lapierre back in the QMJHL with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
Both rose to prominence with a solid tenure in juniors, with McMichael shining with the OHL’s London Knights and Lapierre rising up the ranks with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. He was traded to the Titan in the offseason. McMichael ended up going in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at No. 25, and Lapierre went No. 22 in 2020.
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Washington didn’t have a lot of vacancies heading into the 2021-22 campaign, but with Nicklas Backstrom going on the LTIR as he rehabilitates a hip injury — and a myriad of other injuries taking place — Washington ended up having a couple of spots open as the top prospects went head-to-head.
“We don’t really talk about [the competition]. But I think we kind of know in the back of our heads that maybe it’ll come down to this,” Lapierre said during camp. “So we just try to push each other every day. You know, we did a play in practice and we both went to see each other [and say], ‘good play, good play,’ so it’s really a healthy competition. You know, he’s a tremendous hockey player, so I’m sure it’ll be a good battle and we’ll see what happens.”
Both ended up making the opening night roster and getting time up at the NHL level. Lapierre ended up playing six games up with the big club, scoring his first NHL goal in his debut. McMichael, meanwhile, is still up with the team and has played top-6 and bottom-6 minutes, posting three goals and eight points through 22 games.
“I was sad to see him go down, but I’m sure that he’s going to kill it in the Q. I’m excited to see him back here next year,” McMichael said of No. 29. “He’s a really fun guy to be around and he’s always laughing, having fun. So he had a good stint up here and I’m excited for him to come back.”
McMichael also said he’s excited to see what Lapierre does with a chance to make Team Canada’s World Junior Championship team. He earned an invite to the national team’s selection camp, along with 2021 Capitals second-rounder Vinnie Iorio.