ARLINGTON, V.A. — Hard work is paying off for Washington Capitals youngster Hendrix Lapierre. The 19-year-old, who is coming off a stellar training camp, will make his NHL debut in style as part of the Capitals lineup vs. the New York Rangers.
Lapierre will center the third line between Conor Sheary and T.J. Oshie, a spot that’s been familiar to him throughout the preseason and camp. He is one of four under-25 players who made the cut heading into this season. His family is ready to attend the opener.
The 19-year-old is coming off a standout 2020-21 campaign with the QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens, where he dished 31 points in 21 games (on pace for 100 points in a full year). While continuing to thrive when it comes to playmaking, he also became more confident in his shot and made major strides forward in his overall game.
Lapierre carried that momentum into Washington. He was a vocal leader and standout player in the Capitals’ rookie camp and transitioned seamlessly into main training camp. He was skating hard, playing the game with speed and confidence, making strong plays, displaying a high hockey IQ and maintaining a high level of awareness at both ends of the ice.
That carried over into preseason game action, where he finished with five assists (tied for third place in NHL) in four exhibition games and led to a roster spot.
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“I’ve always been confident in my abilities, you know,” Lapierre said. “…I knew it was gonna be really tough, it’s a tough league, but I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll show what I can do, I’ll work as hard as I can each and every day. I’ll try and get better. So in a certain way, I was kind of like, ‘Okay, yeah, I can be here,’ but in another way, I was like, ‘Okay it’s gonna be really tough.’ I feel like I work really hard and I consider myself lucky to be here.”
With Nicklas Backstrom still rehabbing from a hip injury and on the LTIR, Lapierre will get the opportunity to help fill the void at center along with Connor McMichael, who is a healthy scratch against New York unless Ovechkin isn’t ready to go (game-time decision).
There are still areas of his game that he needs to work on, including adapting to the NHL’s physical style and winning face-offs. However, he’s been taking in a lot from Oshie, who’s been helping him with game scenarios, draws and more.
“On the ice, I always try to be one of the last guys and I feel like Osh works on a lot of stuff too and he works on stuff that’s out of the ordinary a little bit,” Lapierre explained. “I really want to try to work on those things, too… if I can do what Osh does and hopefully he doesn’t find I’m annoying but just following him around and seeing what he does. He can do it perfectly so what I told myself is, ‘Well if I can do that on a daily basis maybe I’ll be as good as him.'”
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Lapierre will be able to play nine games at the NHL level before burning out a year of his entry-level contract. At that point, the Capitals can send him back down to the QMJHL, where he’d start with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, his new team following a major QMJHL trade in the offseason. So going forward, there’s a major test and opportunity waiting for the 2020 first-rounder, and he’s ready to make the most of it.
“[The young guys] deserved a spot… it’s very good to see young players to come in and help in the game. So they’re ready and they feel strong and it’s fun to watch what they do with the puck,” Ovechkin said.
In regards to sharing words of wisdom with the young guns, Ovechkin was all smiles.
“I’m still young, can somebody give me advice, too? No, they just have to enjoy the moment, not thinking too much,” he laughed.
Here are the lines from the Capitals morning skate.
McMichael, Malenstyn, Irwin cycling in.
Looks like Lappy will make his debut.
— Sammi Silber (@sammi_silber) October 13, 2021