For Washington Capitals prospect Connor McMichael, the start of the 2022-23 season didn’t go exactly according to plan. However, he feels things are headed in the right direction following his loan to the AHL’s Hershey Bears.
McMichael made the Capitals opening night roster, but he spent the majority of the start to his sophomore season as a healthy scratch. And when he did suit up for six games, he skated minimal minutes due to a variety of factors and also couldn’t make an impact in limited ice time. In turn, the team sent him down to Hershey to get more ice time and experience to help his development, and that’s made all the difference for the 21-year-old.
“It’s been good. Obviously had a good time in Washington but coming back here, there’s a lot of familiar faces a lot of guys that I played with before, so it’s an easy transition,” McMichael said in a radio interview with Zack Fisch on the Hershey Bears Radio Network. “Obviously, we have a really good coaching staff down here and they made me feel welcome right away. And obviously, since I’ve been here, the team’s been rolling. So it’s been good and i’m having a lot of fun.”
McMichael has been skating primarily on the second line, playing in his natural center role. In addition to top-6 minutes, the 2019 first-rounder has also been playing a role on the power play and penalty kill and getting critical playing experience.
“I think it’s a big part of my game right now is kind of working on different situations in the game. Penalty kill, power play, up by a goal, down by a goal. So I think it’s been a good experience for me so far,” McMichael explained. “I’ve been happy with the minutes I’ve been playing and how I’ve been able to contribute to the team. I’m looking to keep that up.”
In six games so far, McMichael has two goals and delivered on the power play in Wednesday’s 4-2 win over Lehigh Valley. He has added a lot to the locker room too as a role model who has quite a bit of NHL experience after having played 75 games up with the Capitals over the last two seasons. And, when it comes to being a leader in the room, he drew a lot of inspiration from the captain he played under in his first pro year in Hershey: veteran Matt Moulson.
“Moulson was a big help for me coming into my first pro year, and that’s something that’s always going to stick with me in the future,” McMichael explained. “Right now, I’m a young guy. But I got a few NHL games under my belt, so I’m trying to bring that experience to first-year guys and just let guys bounce questions off me when they need. Moulson was a great help for me and that’s something I’ll remember. I’ll try to give that back to the future young guys.”
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Going forward, the Washington prospect has put everything that transpired to start the year out of his mind and isn’t focused on when he’ll eventually return to the NHL. Instead, his primary objective is to help the Bears in any way he can.
“A big thing for me is to help contribute to this team. We got a really good squad down here,” McMichael said. “I think that we can do something special. Right now [my goal] is to help this team win, go far in the playoffs and we’ll see what happens.”