“From The Vault” is a new series that consists of past 1-on-1 interviews with Washington Capitals and NHL players, as well as never-before-seen features. Let’s start with 2019 first-rounder Connor McMichael.
At his first Capitals training camp, Connor McMichael said hearing his name called at the 2019 NHL Draft was a feeling like no other.
“A lot of excitement. You kind of black out for a little bit when you first hear your name,” McMichael recalled.
The 20-year-old grew up in Ajax, Ontario with two older siblings and three younger brothers. He found his love of the game early on, having discovered the game at a young age and watching the Toronto Maple Leafs on television.
“My parents put me in learn to skate when I was three of four. I grew a passion for the game when I was just playing mini sticks in the basement with my older brother,” McMichael said. “That’s where I kind of took off and I’ve been playing hockey ever since.”
McMichael said his siblings made everything a competition, and that inspired him as he continued to pursue his career. He eventually worked his way up to the OHL’s London Knights, where he took a lot of lessons away from a former Washington player and bench boss: Dale Hunter.
“[Hunter] prepared me to be a pro,” McMichael said. “I’ve learned a lot from him.”
The Leafs fan also took a lot away from watching Auston Matthews, incorporating his style into his personal game. Washington took McMichael 25th overall, and he didn’t disappoint in his first post-draft season. He put up a remarkable 47 goals and 102 points in 52 games before COVID-19 cut the season short. McMichael was also “black ace” for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs but didn’t make his NHL debut until 2020-21.
In regards to the transition from junior hockey, one of the main things he emphasized was speed.
“Obviously there’s a lot of fast players in this league. The league’s really young, a lot of young superstars. So obviously, getting your foot speed up and keeping up with the older guys and the professionals, it’s going to be huge for me,” McMichael said.
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For the young prospect, it appeared to come easy in his first pro season lacing them up with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. He finished the year as Hershey’s leading scorer with 14 goals and 27 points in 33 games. His fast-paced play, lethal shot and strong stickhandling ability helped him excel in several areas of his game.
He also credited veteran and captain Matt Moulson for helping him grow his game.
“I think we’re here for the same goal trying to make the Capitals. We’re all working hard. You kind of just have to have that pro mentality every game, every practice and learn from guys…” McMichael told Bears media. “Taking everything [head coach Spencer Carbery) says to heart. Just work on your game day in and day out.”
Off the ice, McMichael’s still a kid at heart, and does what he can to relax in his downtime. He unwinds with The Office (Michael Scott’s his favorite character) and hanging out with friends.
As he continues his road to the NHL, general manager Brian MacLellan mentioned he didn’t want to rush McMichael’s development. However, the prospect’s made a strong case for himself, and uncertainty surrounding the Capitals centers could see him make the NHL jump sooner rather than later.