Hendrix Lapierre said earlier this season that he smiles all the time and always sees the glass half-full rather than half-empty. The Washington Capitals prospect is carrying that positive mentality with him as he returns to the QMJHL following his re-assignment on Wednesday.
The 19-year-old is set to make his season debut with his junior team, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, on Saturday as they play host to the Shawinigan Cataractes.
“Certainly in an ideal world, I would have stayed in Washington. However, I had a great opportunity to play games,” Lapierre said in an interview with TVA Sports. “It was up to me to grab it. I don’t think I did wrong, but maybe I didn’t do enough to stay on all year. I do know, however, that I have made a huge leap forward.”
After an injury to Nicklas Backstrom before training camp, the Capitals saw a spot open up on the roster at center. Lapierre stepped up his game and worked to capitalize on the opportunity, putting on a show in training camp and dishing five assists through five preseason games to earn a spot on the opening night roster.
“I was always really confident in what I could accomplish. When when I came to camp, it wasn’t just to be there for fun. I really wanted to make that team and obviously, I was in a situation where I kind of got lucky because of injuries and stuff and unfortunate events,” Lapierre told WHN in October. “I really tried to make the most of that situation.”
READ MORE ON WHN: Lapierre Opens Up About Passion For Hockey, Life With Capitals
Lapierre scored his first NHL goal in his debut and continued to generate speed and chances where he could as Washington saw more injuries to open the year, including key ones to T.J. Oshie, Anthony Mantha and Nic Dowd.
However, more competition from Connor McMichael, Brett Leason, Aliaksei Protas and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby made getting ice time and action in the lineup difficult for Lapierre. He suited up for six games with Washington, registering a lone goal, seven shots and three takeaways before heading back to juniors.
“It’s a lot for a young player to I think to handle the NHL and the league itself. And so we sent him back to juniors where he can play against his peers and you know, who knows what happens from here, whether he gets a chance to play in the world championships and whether he gets a chance to play in playoffs. If all those things could happen, you think about his year and it’s really in a great spot,” head coach Peter Laviolette explained. “It’s not a negative that we sent him back. We just felt it was time for a young player that, where it’s very difficult to crack a league that’s made of grown men, it’s difficult and yet he did such a fantastic job that we had to keep him and we had to keep looking at him and he helped us.”
Lapierre also told TVA Sports that the “messages were very positive” from management.
“They obviously gave me a few things they would like me to work on. I do feel, however, that they have confidence in me. And that’s all I can ask for.”
The 2020 first-rounder played one preseason game for Acadie-Bathurst this year, picking up a goal and an assist. Last season in his post-draft campaign, he was still with his original team, the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, where he recorded eight goals and 31 points through 21 games while wearing the “A” in 2020-21. Chicoutimi traded him to the Titan in the offseason.
Lapierre will now get the opportunity to further bond with his new club, while also continuing to build on his game. He’ll look to capitalize on last year and produce at the QMJHL level, while also lookign to crack Team Canada for World Juniors.
“I realize that I have a lot of things to learn. I haven’t played a lot of games in the past few years. We have a good team in Bathurst, and I think my year will be really good. What I want this year is to have fun playing hockey,” Lapierre told TVA Sports.
“I know it’s a cliche, but I really want to improve myself every day. I want to play on the power play, at a disadvantage, take some big face-offs and try to help the team win,” he added.