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Ovechkin, Capitals Refer To McMichael As ‘McJesus,’ Recap Rookie’s Season

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Capitals McMichale and Ovechkin

ARLINGTON, V.A. — Alex Ovechkin sports a wide smile as he reflects on the Washington Capitals’ youth going into next season.

As he lists out the team’s prospects, he stops on Connor McMichael, referring to No. 24 by a rather unique — but not unknown — nickname.

“McJesus,” Ovechkin says with a laugh.

Ovechkin said that the whole team stumbled upon that nickname for the freshman, a 2019 first-round draft pick. The moniker most notably belongs to Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid.

McMichael is coming off an up-and-down rookie year after he cracked the opening night roster following an impressive training camp and seamless transition to the pros in 2020-21. While he showcased his speed and offensive prowess, he couldn’t find too much consistency amid limited ice time, and there was also room for improvement when it came to playing in his own end, avoiding mistakes and winning battles.

Through 68 games, the 2019 first-rounder dished nine goals and nine assists and was a minus-3, while averaging 10:28 minutes a game. He also collected 22 blocks, 46 hits, 15 takeaways and 10 giveaways.

“I think we see how the young guys step up this year through all the injuries,” Ovechkin said. “I think it’s good for us… they’re growing and they will help us for next year for sure.”

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McMichael spent time at both center and wing this season but primarily played on the left side given injuries and the team’s depth down the middle. However, going forward, the expectation is for him to maintain the role of a pivot going forward.

“I thought his year was really good for a young player,” head coach Peter Laviolette said. “He was in and out of the lineup. We liked him best when he was playing center. He seemed like he found more speed through the middle of the ice and he was able to attack the game more through the middle.”

When it comes to where the 21-year-old needs to grow his game, Laviolette said he wants to see McMichael add more strength and continue to focus on the physical side of his play.

“[I’m] looking forward to watching him grow this summer, get stronger, which I think there’s room for — as all young players, there’s room to get stronger and come back into training camp and really physically attack the ice and the game and work to be a regular in our lineup,” Laviolette added.

General manager Brian MacLellan also said that he believes McMichael’s role will “expand” next season and that he is “more effective” playing pivot.

Looking at Washington’s roster as a whole, John Carlson enjoyed seeing several rookies like McMichael make the NHL jump and believes that the organization’s youth can bring a lot to the table.

“They are great players that deserve to play a lot of minutes and have a lot of responsibility,” Carlson said, adding, “I would expect big things out of them.”

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After his first full year in the NHL, McMichael said that he feels “a lot more comfortable” and is ready to make a bigger impact as he’s still just getting started with the Capitals.

“I think I just got a lot of games under my belt now — I feel a lot more comfortable, a lot more confidence out there,” McMichael said. “I feel like there’s not as many nerves as there would be if I were to just jump in towards the end of the regular season right into playoffs. So I think I’ve gotten really comfortable with my game. I’m still getting better and better.”

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