ARLINGTON, V.A. — Before a gritty, hard-working practice on Sunday following a 4-0 shutout loss to the Colorado Avalanche, Washington Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette took Connor McMichael aside and told him he’d be headed to the AHL’s Hershey Bears. McMichael was excited.
The decision comes amid a number of healthy scratches, as well as T.J. Oshie and Dmitry Orlov returning to practice as the roster starts to see some names get healthy. Not only that, but new additions after the season started have also made McMichael a bit of an odd man out.
“I think just from a development standpoint to get down there and play some games, play 20, 22 minutes a night, get in the middle of the ice, take faceoffs, power play, get some confidence back… I talked to him this morning and he was excited to go play some games,” head coach Peter Laviolette explained. “It’s been tough. The games he’s been in there’s not been any power play time, no penalty time, so you’re talking about [minimal] minutes.”
McMichael has averaged 8:52 a night through just six games this season, going without a point and managing just two shots on goal and one fight. In his limited playing time, he hasn’t been able to show much of anything, nor has he been able to really capitalize on his opportunities.
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And when it comes down to it, a majority of his time up at the NHL level has been staying on long after practice has ended to get individual work in, and that’s not what Laviolette and the Capitals want for the 21-year-old. Instead, they want him in Hershey playing games and continuing to grow as a player and live up to expectations as a developing first-rounder.
“He’s just gotta play. He’s got to get out there and he’s got to have great nights. And he’s got to have good nights, tough nights, and he’s going to score some goals and be counted on defensively and just get back to having some fun playing the game,” Laviolette said. “When you’re in and out of the lineup, when you’re in the lineup and there’s not that regular shift all the time because of special teams, the zone on the ice. He’s playing down on the third line. You’re not on the power play, you’re not on the penalty kill, you’re not out there after the timeout on the first line grabbing 15 minutes of even strength time. those numbers will just decrease. So he needs to play more and go down and play some hockey. Like I said, he’s excited and he’s excited just to get playing.”
Regarding whether or not he’ll return to Washington in the near future, Laviolette wouldn’t commit to anything when it comes to the Capitals call-up situation.
“I think right now it’s just important that Connor goes and plays and has some fun,” Laviolette said. “Like I said, plays in all situations and works on his game and continues to develop.”
McMichael will wear no. 14 with the Bears, who host the Hartford Wolf Pack at 4:30 p.m. ET.