ARLINGTON, V.A. — There’s a noticeable difference as Hendrix Lapierre takes the podium at MedStar Capitals Iceplex ahead of Washington Capitals training camp. The 20-year-old appears more confident and sure of himself and as he was last year, hungry. This time around, though, he appears more determined as he looks to take back the roster spot he won last year — and keep it this time.
Lapierre, then 19, was a dark horse for a roster spot. He came out of the gate at camp and impressed Peter Laviolette and the staff enough to earn an extended stay in D.C. He scored his first NHL goal in his debut and played in five more games, but ultimately, Washington returned him to the QMJHL, preferring he continue to develop and get ice time with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan rather than practice and watch from the press box.
After returning, Lapierre has been on a mission to do it all over again in 2022-23 and has been fine-tuning different areas of his game as he prepares to fight for a return to the Show. That included skating and positioning, as well as playmaking and his shot among other things. He has also been watching Patrice Bergeron,
“You can’t arrive at camp and not have the mentality of making that team,” Lapierre said. “You have to be a confident player. I’ve put myself in a situation to have success with what I’ve done this summer. The goal is to make that team. It’s been in my head ever since I got eliminated last year from the QMJHL. It’s still in my head, and now, it’s go time… whatever happens, happens. I just don’t want to have any regrets and just play my game and see what happens.
“Last year I really arrived, and I think nobody really expected for me to do what I did… I know what I did last year and I want to do it again and do it even better,” Lapierre added. “I feel like for me, it’s all about that it’s showing that I gained an extra step this summer. And I’m ready to play wherever they want me to play… I’ve been training all summer for this, and now it’s time to go. I’m pretty excited.”
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For Lapierre, though, the most important thing was adding size and strength. He weighed in at around 182 last year, and he got feedback to add more muscle. That, of course, would help the 6-0 center stack up better to opponents, hold his own and be able to adapt to the heavier NHL game with the Capitals.
“It was really about putting weight on. Smart weight, not fat. Being more heavy,” Lapierre explained. “Playing 82 games against grown men and 30 to 35-year-old guys, I feel like for me was get bigger, get stronger. It’s really a cliche answer, but it really was that for me,” Lapierre explained. “I tried to eat a lot, spend as much time as I could in the gym without burning myself out.”
Going into training camp, Lapierre said he gained around eight pounds and is now at 190. It’s a comfortable weight for him now, as he feels he has added strength and can also maintain his speed.
“From what we’ve seen in the last couple weeks with the fitness results everything’s positive. I feel comfortable with that,” Lapierre said, adding, “I have to adjust to play with that. Obviously, it’s different to play from 182 to 190, but I feel like I’ve had plenty of time this summer to make sure it was all good. I feel good.”
Training camp unofficially kicks off with off-ice testing and physicals on Wednesday before on-ice sessions start on Thursday. Lapierre is one of 68 skaters for Washington that is looking for a spot on the Capitals roster.